Credits section

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Learning About Ecosystems:
The Tidal Marsh Ecosystem and Food Web

A WebQuest for 5th Grade Science

Designed by Mary Silgals, Amy Ball, Cindy Gaskins, and Lee Anne Jenkins

E-Mail:Mary Silgals

Introduction | Learners | Standards | Process | Resources | Evaluation | Conclusion | Credits |


This lesson was developed as part of an assignment on developing WebQuests by students enrolled in the Masters of Library and Information Science program, CLIS 761, Professor Martha Taylor, at the University of South Carolina, Davis College of Library and Information Science.

This lesson focuses on studying the tidal marsh ecosystem that exists along the coastal regions of South Carolina and the corresponding food chains that exist in this ecosystem. Student pages are accessed by clicking on the navigation bars at the top of this page.


This lesson is designed to meet South Carolina 5th grade science curriculum standards. The lesson can easily be extended to additional grades, subjects or other state standards with a few adaptations.

Prior to beginning this lesson, students will need to know how to take notes while reading information from a computer screen. Students may work best if they know how to open multiple windows, allowing them to take notes in a word document at the computer, rather than taking notes on paper. Emphasis should be given on "no cutting and pasting," but instead, the students should compose notes in their own words.

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Curriculum Standards

This WebQuest meets the following South Carolina Science Standards.

Science Standards Addressed

1a. Define a population.

1b. Investigate and understand how plants and animals in an aquatic/terrestrial ecosystems interact with one another and with the nonliving environment.

2a. Distinguish among the roles organisms serve in a food web
(producers, decomposers,consumers, prey, and predators).

2b. Describe an organism by its niche in an ecosystem.

3a. Recognize that energy passes from organism to organism in food webs.

3b. Diagram how energy flows through food webs.

4a/b. Identify and investigate the abiotic and biotic factors in an ecosystem.

4c. Describe the effect of limiting factors such as food, water, space, and shelter, on a population.

4d. Evaluate the impact of the environment on populations of organisms.

4e. Draw conclusions about the influence of human activity on ecosystems.

4f. Discuss ways to minimize the negative impact of technology/ industrialization on ecosystems and to maximize the positive impact.

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Technology Standards

This WebQuest meets the following ISTE Technology Standards.

ISTE Standards Addressed

1 Basic operations and concepts

Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems.

Students are proficient in the use of technology.

2 Social, ethical, and human issues

Students practice responsible use of technology systems, information, and software.

Students develop positive attitudes toward technology uses that support lifelong learning, collaboration, personal pursuits, and productivity.

3 Technology productivity tools

Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity.

Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works.

4 Technology communications tools

Students use telecommunications to collaborate, publish, and interact with peers, experts, and other audiences.

Students use a variety of media and formats to communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences.

5 Technology research tools

Students use technology to locate, evaluate, and collect information from a variety of sources.

Students use technology tools to process data and report results.

Students evaluate and select new information resources and technological innovations based on the appropriateness for specific tasks.

6 Technology problem-solving and decision-making tools

Students use technology resources for solving problems and making informed decisions.

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Literacy Standards

This WebQuest meets the following Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning.

Literacy Standards Addressed

Information Literacy
Standard 1: The student who is information literate accesses information efficiently and effectively.

Standard 2: The student who is information literate evaluates information critically and competently.

Standard 3: The student who is information literate uses information accurately and creatively.

Independent Learning
Standard 4: The student who is an independent learner is information literate and pursues information related to personal interests.

Standard 5: The student who is an independent learner is information literate and appreciates literature and other creative expressions of information.

Standard 6: The student who is an independent learner is information literate and strives for excellence in information seeking and knowledge generation.

Social Responsibility
Standard 7: The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and recognizes the importance of information to a democratic society.

Standard 8: The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and practices ethical behavior in regard to information and information technology.

Standard 9: The student who contributes positively to the learning community and to society is information literate and participates effectively in groups to pursue and generate information.

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The lesson is organized into the following parts: introduction, task, process, evaluation and conclusion. The task is divided into three stages and the process addresses each of these stages separately. Students will answer a series of questions by locating the answers from the Internet sources listed on the page. After doing individual work, the students will then collaborate on a group project for presentation to the class. Depending upon access to computers and the number of class groups needed, the lesson should require at a minimum one week's class time: two days for research and note taking, one day for presentation preparation, and two days for class presentations.

Students should read the evaluation rubric (evaluation page) prior to submitting their assignments.

Students will be working on the tasks both individually and in groups. Three to four students per group are recommended.

If student access to computers is limited, emphasis must be placed on pre-planning. Pre-planning may involve printing a paper copy of the task and process to give to each student prior to computer time.

Teachers play the role of facilitator in the lesson. Students should be able to work both independently and with their group members to complete this lesson.

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Resources Needed

Students will need the following materials to complete this lesson:

  • Class science book for additional reference source (optional)
  • Internet Explorer or Netscape browser
  • PowerPoint software if the student is preparing a demonstration
  • Microsoft Word or a version of word processing software
  • Computers for each group or one for each student if numbers permit
  • Video plug-ins already installed on computers for viewing movies.
  • Computer with audio if the student wishes to listen to movies

One teacher should be able to facilitate this lesson. Although a field trip is not part of this lesson, if resources are available such as the Charleston Aquarium, a teacher may want to incorporate a trip into the lesson plan.

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Rubric Template

Evaluation Rubric

Group Project - Food Web, Report, and Presentation











Students will create a food web that includes at least two composers and producers, and at least four consumers.


Students created a food chain, not a food web.
Students are on the way to creating a food web, but are not quite there.
Students have created a food web.
Students have created a food web that meets all the components of the objective.


Each group will turn in a two-page report that answers the First Stage questions 3-6. Completely being careful to use correct spelling and grammar.



Students have not answered all the questions completely or correctly. Grammatical/spelling errors and not two-page length.
Students have a two-page report, but need to answer the questions more completely with all the possible answers. Some grammatical and spelling errors.
Students have a two-page report that answers all of the questions correctly. Only a few grammatical/spelling errors.
Students have a two-page report that fully answers the questions with great detail. No grammatical/spelling errors.


Each group will present its food web and report to the class in a ten minute presentation.



Students have the food web and report, but it is not neatly displayed, completed, or presented in a clear manner. Did not meet required time limit.
Students have the foodweb and report displayed neatly, but several items are missing from the food web or report. Did not meet the time limit.
Students have the food web and report displayed neatly. The food web and report are done correctly. Met time limit.
Students have creatively done the food web and report correctly. Items displayed and presented in very clear and concise manner.

    Grading Score

Rubric Template

Evaluation Rubric

Food Web Research Report













The information appears to be disorganized.
Information is organized, but paragraphs are not well-constructed.
Information is organized with well-constructed paragraphs.
Information is very organized with well-constructed paragraphs and details.


Amount of Information



One or more topics were not addressed.
All topics are addressed, and most questions answered with one sentence about each.
All topics are addressed and most questions answered with at least two sentences about each.
All topics are addressed and all questions answered with at least three sentences about each.


Quality of information



Information has little or nothing to do with the main topic.
Information clearly relates to the main topic. No details and/or examples are given.
Information clearly relates to the main topic. It provides one-two supporting details and/or examples.
Information clearly relates to the main topic. It includes several supporting details and/or examples.


Spelling and Mechanics



Too many spelling and/or mechanical errors that make comprehension difficult.
Many spelling and mechanical errors.
More than two grammatical/spelling errors, but not more than eight.
No more than two grammatical or spelling errors.


Rough Draft and Graphic Organizer



Turned in both, but they are not complete. Graphic organizer has few details.
Both are mostly complete and turned in with paper.
Both are complete and turned in with paper.


Completion of Task.



Not complete at all. Very little effort put forth.
The essay is missing information. Graphic organizer and rough copy not complete.
Most parts of the project are complete.
All parts of the project are complete.

Rubric Template

Evaluation Rubric

Collaborative Work Skills: Food Webs













Doesn't hand in assignments.
Hands in many assignments late.
Hands in most assignments on time.
Hands in all assignments on time.


Research Information



Does not collect information.
Contributes little information.
Contributes information that mainly relates.
Contributes a good deal of relevant information.


Shares Information

Keeps information to self and does not share with group.
Shares some information with group.
Shares important information with group.
Communicates and shares all information with group.




Never cooperates.
Seldom cooperates.
Usually cooperates.
Always cooperates.


Listens to Group Members



Always talking and never allows others to speak.
Talks much of the time and rarely allows others to speak.
Talks too much at times but usually is a good listener.
Balances well listening and speaking.


Makes Fair Decisions



Always wants things their way.
Often sides with friends and does not consider all viewpoints.
Usually considers all viewpoints.
Total team player.


Fulfills Duties



Does not perform any duties.
Performs very little in way of duties.
Performs nearly all duties.
Performs all duties.


Shares Responsibility



Always relies on others to do the work.
Rarely does the work - needs constant reminding.
Usually does the work - seldom needs reminding.
Always does assigned work without being reminded.


After finishing this lesson students should have an understanding of food webs and be able to identify and explain the major forces that sustain an ecosystem. Based upon their learning experience they should be able to answer the following questions: what is your role in an ecosystem? how do ecosystems influence your daily life?

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Credits & References

Lesson Plans and Other Informational links

  • Teach.Net: Cooperative Lesson: Create A Food Web
  • Food Chain: What Comes Around Goes Around
  • Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave - Alternate food web activity
  • South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, SC
  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration education site

    Activity Based Websites

  • Brain Pop: Food Chains
  • Quiz based upon above Brain Pop link
  • South Carolina Online Aquarium Curriculum - Activity
  • Living Things/Food Chains/Classifications
  • BrainPop: Ecosystems


  • Videotape "Food Chain: Animal Life in Action"
  • Videotape "All About Food Chains: Animal Life For Children"


    Degen, Patricia and Bruce, Joanna Cole, Carolyn Bracken. The Magic School Bus Gets Eaten: A Book About Food Chains. New York: Scholastic. 1996.
    Magic School Bus at amazon.com

    Greenaway, Theresa. Food Chains: Cycles in Nature. Raintree: 2000.
    Cycles In Nature at amazon.com

    Kalman, Bobbie and Jacqueline Langille. What are Food Chains and Webs? (Science of Living Things). Crabtree Publishing Company. 1998.
    What are Food Chains and Webs? at amazon.com

    Lippson, Alice Jane and Robert L. Lippson. Life in the Chesapeake Bay, John Hopkins University Press. 1997.
    Life in the Chesapeake Bay at amazon.com

    Graphic Design

    Our special thanks to all those who created the wonderful resources on the Internet and made them available for use in this WebQuest.

    Graphic Design Templates were modified from the following source: The WebQuest Page and Design Patterns.

    Clip Art is from the subscription based service at the following website: Tripod.Com.

    Animation gifs are from the subscription based service at the following website: Animation Factory.

    Navigation buttons are shareware and may be located at the following website: Button Studio.

    Photos from: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce

    Wordbank definitions on process page from: Dictionary.com.

    Diagram for food web on task page: Maryland With Pride.

    "We all benefit by being generous with our work. Permission is hereby granted for other educators to copy this WebQuest, update or otherwise modify it, and post it elsewhere provided that the original author's name is retained along with a link back to the original URL of this WebQuest. On the line after the original author's name, you may add Modified by (your name) on (date). If you do modify it, please let me know and provide the new URL."

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    Last updated on July 28, 2004. Based on a template from The WebQuest Page