What in the Web?

Curricular Context

Barnard is in the process of strengthening instruction related to the Environmental Sciences, with the goal of providing quality, theme-specific learning opportunities for students to better prepare them for Environmental STEM careers.  Students need to develop a strong foundation of both academic content and STEM-based skills before they enter high school (and college or the workplace thereafter). The foundation of this knowledge and these skills will be developed through rigorous PK-8 Environmental STEM experiences. Utilizing the Environmental STEM Lab, students PK-5 participate in Environmental Science and STEM instruction at least once a week. This Environmental Science and STEM course focuses on two major areas of learning: Environmental Science and Engineering. 

We are working to integrate the Grade 5 science instruction with their Environmental STEM classes.

  pre-K K 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Theme Pathway

Pre-K-1: A Natural World

Nature-Based Inquiry, Exploration & Investigation of living things & the environment around us

Grades 2-4: Our Changing Environment

An awareness of Interdependent Relationships, Human Impact & Exploring Solutions

Grades 5-8: A Time for Environmental Action

A focus on Global Citizenship, Engineering, Biotechnology & Environmental Stewardship. Preparing today's youth for tomorrow's world

Grade Level Themes Nature Based Inquiry Living Things & Their Environment Life Cycles & Survival Ecosystems: Biodiversity & Nature Pollution & Waste Management An awareness of Interdependent Relationships, Human Impact & Exploring Solutions A sustainable future: Our Green Earth (Hydroponics) A sustainable future: Our Blue World (Aquaponics) Environmental Engineering and Developing Solutions Environmental Engineering and Developing Solutions



Our school campus supports outdoor exploration that lends itself to experiential learning opportunities. We have one of the largest school gardens in the district, as well as an established School Yard Habitat, designed as a more natural area to support local wildlife; these spaces act as outdoor classrooms where students engage in authentic learning experiences. Our campus is across the street from the Barnard Nature Center, allowing for student-led investigations of the West River. The school garden and School Yard Habitat are integral parts of our environmental instruction.  Each grade level plays a different role in maintaining each outdoor learning space.

One major challenge we face is getting teachers to regularly utilize our outdoor learning spaces and integrate them into their lessons. We are hopeful this mini-unit will be one way to get our fifth grade students outside to explore the School Yard Habitat as well as to introduce kindergarten students to it.  


Barnard Mapping Tool


Grade Level: 5

Driving Question: What is the importance of relationships of organisms (including humans) in an ecosystem?

Supporting Questions:

  • How are animals and plants related in food webs?
  • What roles do organisms play in an ecosystem? 
  • How do newly introduced species affect the balance of an ecosystem

Next Generation Science Standards:

5-LS2-1: Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.

5-PS3-1: Make observations and measurements to identify materials based on their properties.

5-LS-1-1 Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth chiefly from air and water.

Interdisciplinary Standards:

RI.5.7 - Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently. (5-LS2-1)

SL.5.5 - Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes. (5-LS2-1)

L.5.4 - Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade 5 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.

MP.2 - Reason abstractly and quantitatively. (5-LS2-1)

MP.4 - Model with mathematics. (5-LS2-1)


Barnard NGSS Evidence Statements


Culminating Project:

Students will assume the role of a research student at a local university who has been asked by their professor to research and present on the transfer of energy of a local ecosystem of their choice. Students will present a food web, including trophic levels, to a group of elementary students at Barnard Environmental Studies Magnet School, highlighting the importance of relationships among organisms (including humans) on an ecosystem. Students will also provide their audience with a tour of the local ecosystem they are presenting. 


Student Products:

Team: Develop and present a model of a food web of Barnard’s outdoor School Yard Habitat.

Individual: Presentation of a food web of a local ecosystem of their choice.



Elementary students at Barnard Environmental Science School


Impact of Student Work:

Students will gain deeper awareness and understanding of the interdependent relationships amongst organisms in local ecosystems and their school’s outdoor habitats

Students in fifth grade will build relationships with Kindergarten students by presenting their food web projects to the younger students and preparing a guided tour of the outdoor ecosystem they researched and presented on. 

Kindergarten students will be provided with outdoor experiential learning opportunities by the fifth grade students, in the School Yard Habitat.


Additional resources:

Student Task Assignment:

You are a research student at the University of Connecticut and you have been asked by your Ecology professor to present at a local Elementary School on the transfer of energy of a local ecosystem in CT. You must present a food web, including trophic levels, highlighting the importances of relationships of organisms (including the impact of invasive species and/or humans) in an ecosystem. You will also act as a tour guide for students, showing them the ecosystem you are presenting on. 

Food Web & Chain Example

Presentation Rubric


Week 1: Developing a food web

Driving Question: How are animals and plants related in food webs?

Key Student Questions: Why do we eat food? 

  • Day 1: Checking Prior Knowledge: Why do we eat food? Brainstorm and develop preliminary food chain/food web model in activity notebook *Biodome Phenomena (Mystery Science)
  • Day 2: Checking for Prior Knowledge and Key Vocabulary: Response to video “I notice/I wonder” T-chart (Food Chains vs. Food Webs) activity in notebook
  • Day 3: Key Vocabulary: Students participate in a card sort activity to support use of vocabulary (Organism, Community, Herbivore, Carnivore, Food Web, Trophic Levels, Decomposer, Interact, Energy, Environment, Food Chain)
  • Day 4: Formative Assessment (with Scaffolds): Label preliminary food chain and food web model with newly acquired vocabulary
  • Day 5: Weaving the Web Activity


Week 2: School Yard Habitat food web and trophic representation

Driving Question: What is the role of different organisms in an ecosystem? What effect can newly introduced species have on the balance of an ecosystem?

Key Student Questions: What is a native species? What is an invasive species?  

  • Day 1 & 2: Exploration of the School Yard Habitat and Garden space: identify the types of organisms that inhabit spaces and make connections to the food web. Identify the native species and possible invasive species inhabiting such areas. Identify other plants and animal species, using the iNaturalist app.  Extension Activity:  Detecting Schoolyard Food Chains
  • Day 3: Research and discuss invasive species located in our School Yard Habitat. Discuss the effect invasive species have on local ecosystems and the impact on food webs. Use resources that reference local (CT) invasive species. 
  • Day 4: Research related organisms (ie. primary, secondary and tertiary consumers) in the School Yard Habitat as well as local ecosystems
  • Day 5: Square-Share and Gallery Walk Activity: Students break up into groups of four to share their research findings. Each group presents as a whole group to the class through a gallery walk.  Students look for similarities and ask questions of each other's work. 


Week 3: Creation of Team and individual food webs for presentation

Driving Question: What is the role of different organisms in an ecosystem?  What effect can newly introduced species have on the balance of an ecosystem?

  • Day 1: Groups assume roles of college ecology students from different locations in the US.  Students research primary, secondary and tertiary consumers of their designated ecosystem.
  • Day 2: Using research from Day 1, students model a food chain, web or trophic representation of their location in order to communicate balance and/or imbalance in the ecosystem. 
  • Days 3 & 4: Students discuss with 1-2 other peer groups and the teacher offers feedback and questions. Groups revise their work based on feedback.
  • Day 5: Group discusses takeaways including the impacts of humans and invasive species on ecosystems through the lens of food webs.


Week 4: Presentations

  • Day 1: Groups practice their presentations in class.
  • Day 2: Groups work out their stations and logistics in the school yard habitat and garden spaces.
  • Day 3: Outdoor Event: Students present their ecosystem food webs and School Yard Habitat food webs to Kindergarten students, highlighting the effect of humans and invasive species on the ecosystem. Each student group sets up a booth to present their designated ecosystem food web.  Each student group rotates to the School Yard Habitat to present the SYH Food web to students as well.


Additional resources: