BEFORE YOU VISIT THE GARDEN…
Lesson Ideas for Grade 4
Students will understand the importance of plants and animals in
an ecosystem or food web.
Students will be able to describe the living and nonliving components
of an ecosystem necessary for survival.
Chart paper or blackboard
Koi fish are omnivorous and will eat almost anything. In the wild,
Koi are bottom feeders, also referred to as benthic feeders, which
means that they suck insects, larvae, algae and plant waste from
the bottom of the pond. At the Japanese garden, students will have
the opportunity to feed the koi formulated pellets, and can observe
while they literally suck the pellets into their mouths from the
top of the pond.
- Ask students what we need in order to survive. As they give appropriate
suggestions, write the words “food,” “water,”
“shelter,” and “space” on the board or chart
paper. Try to keep these key terms on display in the classroom throughout
- Explain to students that today you are
going to focus on one of these elements: food. However, all of these
things are important for survival.
- Draw a large Venn diagram on the board
or on chart paper. In one circle, write “plants,” and
in the other write “animals.”
- Ask students if they eat plants, then have
them generate examples of the kinds of plants they eat. Ask them
if they eat animals and again have them generate examples. Explain
to students that animals like humans who eat both plants and animals
are called omnivores. Write this heading above the center of the
diagram and have a student write humans inside the overlapping circles.
Explain that the koi fish they will be observing at the Japanese
Garden are also omnivores and eat both plants and animals. Write
koi next to humans. Have students think of other omnivores and write
them in the diagram. (Examples include raccoons, skunks, and bears)
- Next, ask students what kind of animal
is left to enter into the diagram. Write herbivore above the remaining
circle. Explain that herbivores are animals who eat only plants.
Have students think of herbivorous animals and write them in the
diagram. (Examples include mice, deer and rabbits)
- Finally, ask students if they know the
term for animals who only eat other animals. Write carnivore above
one of the Venn circles. Have students think of carnivorous animals
and write their names in the diagram. (Examples include: bobcats,
mountain lions (and even domestic cats), coyotes and foxes)
- Have students observe the interconnectedness
of the Venn Diagram. Ask students what would happen to all of the
animals listed on the board, the herbivores, omnivores and carnivores,
if there were no plants to eat. What would happen to the herbivores?
[Have a student erase all of the animals that eat plants; this includes
the herbivores and the omnivores.] Ask students what will happen
to the carnivores if there are no plant-eating animals. [Because
they feed off herbivores, they would run out of food and die as
- Remind students that plants actually make
their own food using sunlight and gases from the air. For this reason,
we sometimes call plants producers.