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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Thanksgiving Dinner Trophic Pyramid Activity

Those school days before a break, holiday or vacation can be pretty exhausting for a teacher. The kids are excited and wiggly (can you blame them?) The teachers are running out of steam. There are often special assemblies, field trips and other things that make the normal schedule not so normal, adding to the fun. It is an uphill battle!

When I was teaching during chaotic times like these I tried to find a way to create activities that still allowed for learning but were not too vexing for the students or myself. The day before Thanksgiving was one of these times! I would teach a unit on ecosystems with my fourth graders, including food webs, chains and trophic levels. To wrap this up before we took a few days to stuff ourselves with turkey I liked to do this easy "Thanksgiving Dinner Trophic Pyramid" science activity. It really illustrates that humans also consume more at the lower levels of the energy pyramid, just as in any ecosystem.

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking a product link. Please see disclosures page for more details.

Materials for Thanksgiving Dinner Trophic Pyramid

You will need:

Background Information for Trophic Pyramid Lesson

A trophic pyramid, also known as an ecological pyramid or energy pyramid is a graphical representation of food energy levels in an ecosystem. In other words, who eats who and how energy moves up the food chain. The widest part of the pyramid is made up of plants, the narrow point at the top is reserved for the top predator/carnivore. For more background and an activity to learn about trophic pyramids, check this lesson out.

A great book for learning about how energy moves through an ecosystem or food chain is: Pass the Energy Please! by Barbara Shaw McKinney. It's great for a read-aloud (even to early middle-schoolers) or as inspiration for writing and illustrating food chain rhymes.

Thanksgiving Dinner Trophic Pyramid Activity

Draw a very large triangle on the white board, or mark off a triangle on the floor with tape. Give it 4 sections, labeled from bottom to top: "Producer", "Consumer-Herbivore", "Consumer-Omnivore/Carnivore", and "Apex or Top Predator".  You can also get the printable version of the trophic pyramid here.

Give students three 3x5 cards, or post-it notes. Instruct them to draw and label something they like to eat or drink on Thanksgiving on each card. They will then tape their card up in the part of the pyramid they believe it belongs in: "Producer", "Consumer-Herbivore", "Consumer-Omnivore/Carnivore", and "Apex or Top Predator".

Some might fit in more than one category based on ingredients. In general all plant-based items should go in the "Producer" section, any animal products will go in the "Consumer" sections, based on what type of animal. Most likely for your purposes, you won't have anything that goes in either "Consumer-Omnivore/Carnivore", and "Apex or Top Predator" sections.

When finished discuss what they notice about the diagram. For sample questions, download the Thanksgiving Trophic Pyramid lesson plan here. 

More Food Science Activities for Thanksgiving 

Try these other fun science activities with your children or students in November: 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: Amazing Women in STEM Project

I am so pleased to be sharing another awesome new children's book! The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin is a wonderful picture book describing the childhood of the world renowned animal scientist and speaker, Temple Grandin, and how she overcame being different to become a successful scientist and writer. It is one of two picture books in the new Amazing Scientists book series.

In addition to sharing this new book with you, I have included a free "Amazing Women in STEM Research" printable that will be perfect for science and language arts projects in the elementary classroom or with the kids at home. To get you started on your project, also included in this post is a list of inspiring women in STEM with accompanying children's book suggestions.
Amazing Women in STEM Project

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I will receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase after clicking a product link. Please see disclosures page for more details.

Temple Grandin, an Amazing Woman in STEM

I was very excited to receive my review copy of The Girl Who Thought in Pictures . I love so many  things about this book! I love that The Girl Who Thought in Pictures is written in rhyming text, it makes for a lovely read aloud. The illustrations and the way the text is laid out is visually appealing to children as well. The book does an excellent job of describing some tough topics, Dr. Grandin's childhood, her autism diagnosis and how through it all she found things she loved and ways to become successful.

I think it is so important for children to find relatable role models in the sciences and The Girl Who Thought in Pictures does such a great job of illustrating Temple Grandin's signature quotes: "Different, not less." and "The world needs all kinds of minds." I think that all kids most likely experience feeling like they don't fit in at some point in their life, and it is wonderful for them to hear the message that even when you are different, you are needed, you can find supportive people, you can learn what works for you, and you can find success.

Temple Grandin Quote: STEM for Kids

As well as a great read-aloud story, the book includes a timeline of Temple Grandin's life, a letter from Temple Grandin, highlights from an interview and detailed biographical information. It could definitely be used as a resource in an elementary biography or research project.

Here is a sneak peek:

I also love that this is just one of two books depicting a strong female role model in the sciences. The second book in the new Amazing Scientists book series is The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath, a groundbreaking ophthalmologist. I'm excited to see future additions to this book series!

Amazing Women in STEM Research Printable

Use this free 2-page "Amazing Women in STEM Research" printable to get your students or kids at home started on a research or biography project featuring a notable women in a STEM field. The list of women and related children's books below will have you well on your way.

Women in STEM 

In addition to Temple Grandin and Patricia Bath, the following is a list of female scientists, mathematicians, computer coders, and engineers. No doubt you'll know some of these names, but others will most likely be new. They are all fascinating people! Accompanying each woman is a list of children's books about them. 

Women in STEM Research Project

Mary Anning (1799-1847)

An English fossil hunter and paleontologist, discovered a fantastic source of sea fossils from the Jurassic period.

Learn more:

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910)

The first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States, and an advocate for future female doctors.

Learn more:

Annie Jump Cannon (1863-1941)

An American astronomer whose work cataloguing the stars led to the system of modern stellar classification.

Learn more:

Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

Marine biologist, conservationist and writer, her influential book Silent Spring waned of the use of chemicals like DDT on the environment.

Learn more:

Eugenie Clark (1922-2015)

American ichthyologist known as "The Shark Lady", increased our knowledge of sharks and other fish, as well as worked to improve shark's negative reputation.

Learn more:

Anna Botsford Comstock (1854-1930)

American conservationist, teacher and artist, was a pioneer in the nature study movement.

Learn more:

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

Polish physicist and chemist who completed pioneering work in the field of radioactivity with her husband, Pierre. Won Nobel prizes in Chemistry and Physics.

Learn more:

Sylvia Earle (1935- )

American marine biologist, explorer, author, lecturer and National Geographic explorer-in-residence.

Learn more:


Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)

Molecular biologist who was responsible for much of the research and understanding of the structure of DNA, despite the findings being published by James Watson and Francis Crick first.

Learn more:

Jane Goodall (1934- )

British primatologist, the world's leading expert on chimpanzees, ethologist, anthropologist and UN Messenger of Peace. Also the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots and Shoots program.

Learn more:

Margaret Hamilton (1936- )

American computer scientist and systems engineer. As Director of the Software Engineering Division of the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory she helped develop software for the Apollo space missions.

Learn more:


Grace Hopper (1906-1992)

Pioneer of computer programming, a computer scientist and United States Navy admiral.

Learn more:


Mae Jemison (1956- )

NASA astronaut, engineer and physician. The first African-American woman to travel in space.

Learn more:

Katherine Johnson (1918- )

African-American mathematician, or human calculator, who was critical to early NASA missions, such as Project Mercury and Apollo 11.

Learn more:

Margaret E. Knight (1838-1914)

Called the "most famous 19th-century inventor" known for the flat-bottomed paper bag.

Learn more:

Henrietta Leavitt (1868-1921)

American astronomer who discovered relationship between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variable stars. Although she didn't get much credit during her lifetime for her discovery, it helped future astronomers measure the distance between Earth and other galaxies.

Learn more:

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)

English mathematician and writer, known for being the first "computer programmer" as she created the first algorithm intended to be carried out by the first proposed computer.

Learn more:

Caitlin O'Connell-Rodwell (1965- )

World renowned elephant expert, instructor at Stanford University Medical School, scientific consultant, author and co-founder of Utopia Scientific.

Learn more:

Maria Merian (1647-1717)

German naturalist, entomologist and scientific illustrator.

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Sally Ride (1951-2012)

American physicist and astronaut, the first American woman in space!

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Marie Tharp (1920-2006)

American geologist and cartographer, who along with Bruce Hezeen, completed the first scientific map of the entire ocean floor.

Learn more:

Collections about Women in STEM

Amazing Women in STEM research project

Buy a Book and Help a Good Cause

You may not be aware of this, but when you purchase a book published by The Innovation Press, like The Girl Who Thought in Pictures, you are not only getting a great book for the children in your life, but also helping others. For every 10 books sold, The Innovation Press donates one book to First Book, getting books into the hands of kids and schools in need.