Animals on the Grid: Lesson Plan

Learn about vultures and scavengers that serve as crucial members of many ecosystems.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 8.L.3.2 — Summarize the relationships among producers, consumers and decomposers including the positive and negative consequences of such interactions including: 
    • Coexistence and Cooperation 
    • Competition (predator/prey) 
    • Parasitism
    • Mutualism

Learning Outcomes

  • Buy the end of the lesson students will summarize the relationship among producers, consumers and decomposers in an ecosystem.

Essential Vocabulary

  • Producer
  • Consumer
  • Primary consumer
  • Secondary consumer
  • Tertiary consumer
  • Decomposer
  • Scavenger


Students will view the PBS LearningMedia video Vultures: Nature’s Clean-Up Crew.

Discussion Questions: 

  1. What are three diseases vulture populations can devour? 
  2. Why are dogs more dangerous scavengers than vultures?


Tertiary Consumers

By the time vultures get to eat, all the other consumers on the food chain have enjoyed a lovely meal. Other scavengers on the food chain, though, such as hyenas, are carnivores as well, which means that they not only feast on rotting meat, but hunt and eat fresh kill as well. Teachers lead students through the gallery National Geographic Society: Scavengers

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the major role of scavengers in the food web?
  2. How do scavengers contribute nutrients to the food web?
  3. What do insect scavengers eat on the bodies of animals that are living?
  4. In addition to meat, what do cockroaches eat?
  5. Why do scavengers have an easier time finding food than other members of the food chain?


Seal are the scavengers of the sea, at least in the freezing waves of the Antarctic. Students can learn about seals and all the other members of the Arctic food chain by answering the following questions and then playing the Antarctic Food Web Game.

  1. What is the role of the sun in a deciduous forest food chain?
  2. What is one example of a predator who is not also prey?
  3. What is one example of prey that is not also a predator?



Students will view the video Animals on the Grid and take notes on the following:

  1. Why is Ziggy referred to as an “example of nature’s cleanup crew”?
  2. Why can vultures eat materials that would be hazardous and even fatal for most other animal populations?
  3. How do you think tracking devices can help protect vultures and other birds?


Students will team up with partners to construct and present a full food web and chart of one of the following ecosystems including its producers, consumers and decomposers, using the attached resources as guidance. The presentation will include a five-sentence paragraph summarizing the relationships among producers, consumers and decomposers in that ecosystem.

  1. Deciduous Forest —
  2. Tropical Rainforest —
  3. Desert —
  4. Ocean —