Carl Linnaeus was a brilliant botanist. He and his students explored many countries and discovered thousands of new types of plants. However, he is most famous for finding a way of organising these discoveries and naming them; a system that every biologist still uses today.

What's for dinner?

Download a pdf of the instructions here.

You will need...

Cards with different animals printed on them - you can use the African animals suggested here.
Lots of longish pieces of string (each about 3 metres long) with small paperclips at each end.

How long will it take?

The students can be given the information about an African ecosystem and the activity can be done in a class, or they can be asked to research their animal for homework, to extend the information they have about the ecosystem.

What to do...

1.  Have a look at the instructions in the students' section.  Give each student an animal to research.  You may want to hand out more than one of a specific animal, given that there are more buffalo than lions in Africa.  You will also need some producers too:  grass and trees for the herbivores to feed on.  A student may be disappointed to find that they are grass, so you might like to suggest they find out what types of grass grow in the ecosystem and that they are one of the most important sources of food - without them there is no ecosystem - as they will find out!

2.  You can start with small groups before involving the entire class - use one producer, one herbivore and one carnivore initially.  Then add more animals to the web.  At first several predators can prey on the same animal, but later you can add rules where there is only one animal preying on another.

3.  Ask the students to observe what happens when certain creatures are removed from the web.  Discuss how humans can impact on this ecosystem - for good and for bad - and how this might affect the numbers and types of the animals (biodiversity).

An African ecosystem can be composed of certain plants and animals - download cards to cut out and use here. (black and white version here)

Students can look for their own animals that they might find in this environment to add to the food web.

Alternatively the students can look at animals in their local area and find out how they are related in a food web.

Curriculum Links



Working scientifically

Experimental skills and investigations

  • ask questions and devleop a line of enquiry based on observations of the real world, alongisde prior knowledge and experience
  • make predictions using scientific knowledge and understanding


Nutrition and digestion

  • plants making carbohydrates in their leaves by photosynthesis and gaining mineral nutrients and water from the soil via their roots


  • the dependence of almost all life on Earth on the ability of photosynthetic organisms, such as plants and algae, to use sunlight in photosynthesis to build organic molecules that are an essential energy store

Relationships in an ecosystem

  • the interdependence of organisms in an ecosystem, including food webs and insect pollinated crops.

Scottish Curriculum Links



SCN 2-01a

Planet Earth - Biodiversity and interdependence

I can identify and classify examples of living things, past and present, to help me appreciate their diversity. I can relate physical and behavioural characteristics to their survival or extinction. [Note: level 2]


SCN 2-02a

Planet Earth - Biodiversity and interdependence

I can use my knowledge of the interactions and energy flow between plants and animals in ecosystems, food chains and webs. I have contributed to the design or conservation of a wildlife area. [Note: level 2]


SCN 3-01a

Planet Earth - Biodiversity and interdependence

I can sample and identify living things from different habitats to compare their biodiversity and can suggest reasons for their distribution.


SCN 4-01a

Planet Earth - Biodiversity and interdependence

I understand how animal and plant species depend on each other and how living things are adapted for survival. I can predict the impact of population growth and natural hazards on biodiversity.

waspCarl Linnaeus did not just classify animals; he also looked at how they relate to each other in their natural environment.  He studied food chains, the first step to understanding how all life depends on each other.  This was known as the 'economy of nature', where everything has a role to play... even wasps!




What's for dinner?

Download a pdf of the instructions here.

You will need...

Cards with different animals printed on them
Lots of longish pieces of string (each about 3 metres long) with small paperclips at each end.

What to do...

1.  Each person will have a card with an animal (or sometimes a plant) on it, except for two people who will be creating the web.  Have a look at your card and do some research: find out where it lives, what it eats, how long it lives, how many babies it has.  You can decide if it is a producer, carnivore, or scavenger.

2.  The whole class (except the two web makers) should stand in a circle.  Hold the picture of your animal in front of you.

3.  Have a look at the cards around the circle take it in turns to say the name of something that your animal would eat, or an animal that would eat you.

4.  The web makers will take a piece of string and attach it from the predator card to the prey card.  Attach the string to the top of the predator card, or to the bottom of the card if it is the one being eaten.

food web_500

5.  Go around until everyone is linked to someone else.  Continue until you are all tangled up, but not too tangled up or you won't be able to do the next bit!  Once you have gone round the circle a few times you will begin to notice who the predators are, and who are the prey.

6.  Next, remove an animal from your food web: the web makers should unhook this person and all their links in the web.

7.  If you find yourself with nothing to eat (no string attached to the top of your animal picture) you will starve, and you will have to take yourself out of the web as well.

8.  Continue until everyone who needs to leave has left, then have a look at what remains.  What pressures are going to be on the predators and prey when animals are removed from the web?  Why might this happen in real life?  Sometimes removing another predator from a food web leaves more food available; find out if there is anymore prey available to your animal.