Flow of Energy in an Ecosystem Lesson Plan

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has taught high school and college biology and has a master's degree in cancer biology.

Energy is the main reason why we and all other animals eat. Your students will have an interesting learning experience as they watch a video and draw energy pyramids.

Learning Objectives

At the completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Define food chains
  • Identify trophic levels in a food chain
  • Illustrate the flow of energy through trophic levels


1.5 - 2 hours

Curriculum Standards

  • HS-LS2-6. Evaluate claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
  • HS-LS2-8. Evaluate evidence for the role of group behavior on individual and species' chances to survive and reproduce.


  • Computer with projector
  • Copies of the lesson quiz
  • Index card with the name of a different animal or plant from different biomes on each card
  • Colored pencils
  • Student computers
  • Legal sized printer paper


  • Start this lesson by asking your students why they eat food. Allow several students to answer and write their answers on the board. If someone says 'energy', then circle it. If not, then write it on the board and circle it.
  • Tell your students that the main reason why they need food is to give their body energy to do things throughout the day. Remind your students that energy is not created or destroyed, but rather changes from one form or from one location to another such as from one living organism to another.
  • Let your students know they are going to learn about the flow of energy through an ecosystem as they watch the Food chains, Trophic Levels and Energy Flow in an Ecosystem video.
  • Play the video for your students and pause it for periodic discussions.
  • Start the video from the beginning and pause it the first time at 2:33. Ask and discuss the following as a class:
    • What is a food chain?
    • What is the role of a producer in a food chain?
    • From where does a producer get its energy?
    • What is the role of a consumer in a food chain?
    • What are some examples of consumers?
  • Continue playing the video and pause it again at 5:18 to ask and discuss the following together as a class:
    • What are the different trophic levels?
    • What is a food web?
    • What is an autotroph?
    • What do omnivores eat?
    • What is the role of a detritovore?
    • Why are detritovores important to an ecosystem?
  • Continue playing the video and pause it once again at 8:21 to ask and discuss the following as a class:
    • What percentage of energy is used by autotrophs as they make their food?
    • What percentage of the energy received by the autotroph does the primary consumer get once it eats the autotroph?
    • What percentage of energy is passed along as you go up each level of the food chain?
    • What happens with the other percentage of energy not passed along?
  • Play the rest of the video for your students and answer any questions they have at this point in the lesson.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account