While I’ve been preparing my syllabi for fall, my son and I have been reading sets of books on some of the topics that are covered. Our recent reading has taken us into the realm of food chains and food webs. Here is a trio of books that examines different aspects of the energy transfer in nature.
Trout Are Made of Trees, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Kate Endle – What happens when leaves fall from a tree and land in a stream? “They ride in a rush above rocks and over rapids. They snag and settle soggily down.” From here they become food for bacteria and a home for algae. They are further broken down by little critters, like crane flies, caddisflies, shrimp and stoneflies. These critters are eaten by predators. Guess where those leaves are now? When the predators are eaten by trout, the trout are made of trees. This is a beautifully illustrated book (mixed media collage) that not only introduces a simple food chain, but also the life cycle of trout.
Vulture View, written by April Pulley Sayre and illustrated by Steve Jenkins – Scavengers and decomposers play a very important role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem. In helping to break down dead organisms, they are responsible for returning basic nutrients to the soil so that they may reenter the chain. In this book, we get a glimpse of the scavenging role that vultures play, along with some poetry and interesting facts about these oft maligned birds. For more information on this book, please read my review.
Wolf Island, written and illustrated by Celia Godkin – What happens when a top predator in well-balanced ecosystem disappears? This story highlights the changes that occur on an island after a family of wolves accidentally leave the island for the mainland. Without predators, there is nothing to keep the deer population in check. When it swells, the deer eat so much grass that rabbits and mice have fewer young. This results in less food for foxes and owls. This is a terrific resource for demonstrating how the balance of an ecosystem can easily be upset. It also does a fine job of explaining why the top predators in a food chain are so important.
There are other books about food chains and food webs, but these are my favorites and the least didactic of the bunch. All make great lesson starters for teaching elementary students about this topic.