Exploring Predator and Prey Relationships

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SWBAT to construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among predator and prey.

Big Idea

Students explore predator and prey relationships in ecosystems.


10 minutes

To engage students in the lesson, I show students the Eagle vs Hare video that discusses the predator and prey relationship between an eagle and a hare.  The video particularly focuses on the various evasion strategies that the hare utilizes to survive.

After students watch the video, I have them discuss the following questions with their partners:

  1. How would you describe the relationship between the eagle and the hare? Are there any patterns in their interactions with one another? (MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems./CCC - Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships) 
  2. According to video why can't the eagle afford any mistakes?
  3. How could an overpopulation of eagles affect the hare population?  What about an underpopulation?

Students conduct a Rally Robbin discussion of these questions. (SL.8.1-Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.)

A Rally Robin is a cooperative learning strategy. In pairs, students alternate generating responses.

1.  Teacher poses a question to which there are multiple possible responses.

2.  In pairs, students take turns stating responses or solutions orally.


25 minutes

In this section of the lesson students further explore predator and prey relationships by completing The Predator Prey Relationship, a module from The Concord Consortium.

This activity uses a model of the Virtual Ecosystem with three species: grass, rabbits, and hawks. This limited model allows students to explore the effect of predation on the prey population. At first, students explore protective coloration as they “become“ a hawk and try to catch and eat brown and white rabbits on a snowy field. The latter blend into the background and are harder to see, so they have a selective advantage. (MS-LS4-4: Genetic variations in a population increase some individuals probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment).Students then explore how the color of the rabbit population changes as the environment changes over time. (SP2-Developing and Using Models)

The following concepts are addressed by this activity:

  • Animals obtain energy and resources by eating other animals and plants
  • An ecosystem is a collection of interacting organisms, as well as their physical environment.
  • Other plants and animals, as well as the environment, can affect the survival of plants and animals


  • Students complete activity in pairs
  • Students are required to discuss module questions as they complete exercises

Teacher Actions:

  • Monitor student learning by walking around and looking at student graphs.
  • Encourage students to analyze neighbor's graphs. (SP4 - Analyzing and Interpreting Data)
  • Project student graphs and help students to identify and discuss patterns that are appearing.

Teacher Note:  This Concord Consortium module requires an updated version of flash software and CC Launcher. 


10 minutes

In this section of lesson students read an article on predation from cK-12.  

The article discusses the following topics:

1.  Predation

2.  Predation and Population

3.  Keystone Species

4.  Adaptations to Predation

Once students have read the article, they complete a Predation Post Read.

Predation Post Read Objective:

To apply learned understanding of words by identifying relationships between pairs of words from a text and comparing the relationship to a pair of key vocabulary words using word analogies in order to strengthen students’ understanding of the concept.

Once students have completed the post read, they answer the following text-dependent questions:

  1. Describe the relationship between a predator population and the population of its prey.
  2. What is a keystone species? Give an example.
  3. What is a limiting factor?
  4. What is the role of camouflage in prey and predator?  


10 minutes

In this section of students elaborate on what they have learned about predator and prey relationships by reading an article from Buzzle titled 10 Examples of Predator-Prey Relationships.

The article introduces students to 10 examples:

1.  Cheetahs and Gazelle 

2.  African Wild Dogs and Zebras

3.  Canadian Lynx and Snowshoe Hare *

4.  Lions and Warhogs

5.  Wolves and Moose *

6.  Great White Shark and Elephant Seals

7.  Osprey and Fish

8.  Arctic Foxes and Lemmings

9.  Grizzly Bear and Salmon

10.  Cat and Mouse

* These relationships are good examples of predator and prey relationships since they are exclusive relationships, meaning prey is only source of food for predator.

Teacher Note: Students are required to read all descriptions of relationships and choose one that they will focus on for the Exit Slip.


5 minutes

Students now construct an explanation that will predict patterns of interactions in a predatory/prey relationship. (SP6 - Constructing Explanations and Solutions/CCC - Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships)


1.  Students choose 1 relationship example from the Elaborate section of lesson (i.e. Canadian Lynx and Snowshoe Hare).

2.  Students create 2 fictitious scenarios that result in the following:

  •  An increase in population of prey.
  •  A decrease in population of prey.

3.  Students are required to construct a  written analysis of both graphs explaining predatory and prey relationship. (SP2 - Analyzing and Interpreting Data)