Lesson Plan: Chewin' in the Chesapeake

This lesson plan was developed by NSTA master teacher Laura Elkins through NSTA's partnership with NOAA.

Grade Level:

Subject Area:
Life Science

Standards Alignment-National Science Education Standards:

  • Life Science
    • The Interdependence of Organisms:
      • Human beings live within the world's ecosystems. Increasingly, humans modify ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption.
      • Human destruction of habitats through direct harvesting, pollution, atmospheric changes, and other factors is threatening current global stability, and if not addressed, ecosystems will be irreversibly affected.
      • The interrelationships and interdependencies of these organisms may generate ecosystems that are stable for hundreds or thousands of years.
      • Organisms both cooperate and compete in ecosystems.

    • Natural and Human Induced Hazards
      • Pollutants from human activities are released into rivers.

Time Required:
Two 45-minute class periods, plus time for student research

Internet Resources:

Chewin' in the Chesapeake: http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/models/foodwebs/ (student resources)
Chesapeake Bay Program: Habitats: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/habitats.htm
Chesapeake Bay Program: Animals and Plants: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/baybio.htm
Chesapeake Bay Program: Bay Pollutants: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/airandwaterpollution.aspx?menuitem=14679
Chesapeake Bay Coastal Program: http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/Coastpgm.htm
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Guide to Underwater Grasses: http://www.cbf.org/site/DocServer/Guide_to_Underwater_Grasses.pdf?docID=116
Encyclopedia Britannica: http://www.britannica.com/

Lesson Goal:

The goal for this lesson is for students to understand how a human-caused stress placed on the environment affects the life in a food web.

Individual Learning Objectives:

  • Students will be able to use the Internet to research a habitat and create a food web of the organisms found in the habitat.
  • Students will be able to identify and label organisms in a food web according to their function (i.e., Decomposer, consumer, autotroph, etc.)
  • Students will be able to identify and label relationships between organisms in a food web (i.e., mutualism, parasitic)
  • Students will be able to describe the effect of three abiotic factors in a food web.
  • Students will be able to describe the effect a technological change has on a food web.
  • Students will be able to create a product to present their research.

Prerequisite Knowledge; Misconceptions/Preconceptions:

Estuaries are bodies of water and adjacent wetlands found in areas where rivers flow into much larger bodies of water. Most estuaries are typically formed by when a river meets the sea, and the water in these estuaries is a mixture of fresh water and seawater.

Estuaries are some of the most biologically productive systems on Earth, and provide food, recreation, and economic opportunities to human communities, as well as habitats, food, and protected breeding areas for many other species. Because of these benefits, many human communities are located in or near estuaries; and as a result, many estuaries have been damaged by human activities. In addition, estuaries are exposed to a variety of natural disturbances including winds, waves, heavy rainfall, and severe storms.

Procedures/Instructional Strategy:

  1. This lesson is based on the "Chewin' in the Chesapeake" Web site: http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/models/foodwebs/
  2. Students will review the habitats presented on the Chesapeake Bay Program's Habitat Web page.
  3. Students will then select one of the habitats described on the Web page (except Forests), research it, and create a food web of organisms they would find in this habitat.
  4. Students will identify and label each organism with its role in the food web as well as each relationship.
  5. Students will describe the effect of three abiotic factors on the food web.
  6. Technological changes provide stress on food webs. Students will choose one from a list of technological changes and describe the effect of it on their food web.
  7. Students will create a product (i.e. (poster, pamphlet/brochure, newspaper article, public service announcement video, PowerPoint, or Web page) to present the findings of their research.
  8. Students will share the results of their work with classmates.
  9. Students will reflect on the research of the class by addressing the following questions:
    • Explain how you are personally affected by human-caused stresses to the Chesapeake Bay.
    • Explain what "Global Food Web" means.
    • Describe how you could personally help to ensure the maintenance of local and global food webs.
    • Support your response with information from your research and the research of your classmates.


Students will be graded on the following:

  1. A food web for the habitat they have chosen.  (10%)
  2. A product to present their findings (poster, pamphlet/brochure, newspaper article, public service announcement video, PowerPoint, or Web page). (50%)
  3. An oral presentation of their created product. (25%)
  4. A brief constructed response. (15%)

Rubrics for all products, the oral presentation, and the Brief Constructed Response are at the "Chewin' in the Chesapeake" Web site: http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/models/foodwebs/.


  • Students can present their findings to another class or grade level.  This is also an excellent presentation for a parent night. 
  • Ask students to apply their research skills to an estuary that is more local to them and then lobby government and private agencies to help solve the problem.

Classroom Resources:

  • Computer access for students
  • A set of student encyclopedias such as:
    Animals (Macmillan)
    Biomes of the World (Grolier)
    Encyclopedia of Biomes (UXL)
    Exploring the Ocean (Oxford)
    Plants and Plant Life (Grolier)
  • CD-ROM encyclopedias
  • Online encyclopedias, such as Britannica.com (free access to limited encyclopedia)

Search Education
Get Social

Contact Us

Error processing SSI file