Predator and Prey


By Kathy Baker


5th Grade lesson

July 2000



Objectives from MEGOSE (Michigan Essential Goals and Objectives for Science Education)

How are parts of an ecosystem related and how do they interact?


*Explain common patterns of interdependence and interrelationships of living things. (Words describing parts of the food web: producer, consumer, predator, prey, decomposer, & habitat)


How do communities of living things change over time?

*Describe systems that encourage growing of particular plants or animals. . (Needs of life: food, habitat, water, shelter, air, light, & minerals.)


In What ways are living things adapted to survive in their environments?


*Explain how physical and/or behavioral characteristics of organisms help them to survive in their environments. (Words describing characteristics: adaptation, fitness, instinct, learning, & habit. Words describing traits and their adaptive values: sharp teeth or claws for catching and killing prey, & color for camouflage)


I have copied key questions (in red) from the Life Science section in MEGOSE. The black (*) type represents the MEGOSE objectives. The blue words in parenthesis are the key concepts and terms that match the objectives. *The blue bold words are content that my lesson will cover.







Journals, pictures of predators and prey, 200 large poker chips, 5 hula-hoops, colorful sports vests, whistle, timer, & assessment sheet.

(Extensions: computer & spreadsheet or graphing program.)



Duration: 2 (45-50 minute time periods)





*These Predator Vs Prey activities will come in the middle of my insect unit.


First, the students need to discuss many important survival questions.

1. "What makes something a predator? & What are prey?" Have the students write their responses in their journal and discuss with a partner. Then the whole class should come up with answers similar to the following. *Encourage the students to give examples of animals for each so they can make real world connections.



Predator: An animal that kills or eats other animals for food.

Prey: An animal that is killed and eaten by other animals for food.


2. Discuss "What makes a predator good or successful?" Answers may include: good hunters, fast, the ability to fly, good sense of smell, hearing, and/or seeing, camouflage, & body parts that have adapted to help them like large eyes and strong muscles etc…)

3. Discuss "What are some behaviors of prey?" Answers may include: Flying away, standing still, camouflage, hiding in some type of shelter, & signaling to others. Think of animals that do these.

4. Discuss "What happens if there are too many predators?" Answers may include: Many prey die, predators might not find enough food (starve), or predators leave the area to find more prey.


  1. Discuss "What happens if there are too many prey?" Answers may

    include: Not enough shelter, food, or space so some prey die.

  2. Discuss "What happens if there aren’t enough prey for predators?"

Answer: Predators could die of starvation & predators fight for food.

7. These question have led to another main idea called "Limiting Factors"

Ask the students what this could mean by thinking about the word "limiting."

Limiting Factor: Something that drastically affects the well being of an animal. For example: Drought means shortage of water, and animals may die of thirst.

Other examples: climate, disease, pollution, accidents, and shortages of food, predators, & prey. Lets find out how the behaviors of predators and prey affect each other.


  • Play a game called Predator Vs Prey.
  • First, select insects that are predators and prey for each other. For example:

    Predators Prey

    Dragonflies --------------- Mosquitoes and flies *(This is a more realistic example for the game)


    Ladybug ------------------- aphids

    Praying mantis ----------- grasshoppers, moths, butterflies, bees, crickets, & beetles

    Now choose students to be predators and prey. The first game should have about one predator for every six prey.

    Second, find a large playing area like the gym or a field. Identify one end as a food source for the prey and one end as the permanent shelter for the prey.

    Playing Field




    Food source Permanent Shelter


    * * * * *

    * * * *

    * * * * *






    Third, put food source (3 large poker chips per prey) and 5 hula-hoops on the field.

    Next, have the predators put on vests and position themselves anywhere on the playing field. With the sound of a whistle, the prey move from their permanent shelter to the food source. Prey need to get 3 pieces of food (poker chips) during the game, but they can only get one each time. The prey is successful if they reach the permanent shelter with 3 chips before the game is over. The prey can use a few defense mechanisms to help them survive. The prey can freeze if the predator within five feet, but if they move at all the predator can capture them. The prey can also call out to warn other prey and run to the hula-hoop for temporary shelter. Furthermore, the prey must have at least one foot in the temporary shelter to be considered safe from the predators. If captured, the prey must sit appropriately on the sidelines. The predators must tag (establish what this means) at least two prey before the end of the game to survive.

    At the end of the time limit (5-10 minutes), count up the number of prey in the permanent shelter with 3 pieces of food. These prey survived! Prey that don’t have enough food will die. Count up the number of predators who captured at least two prey. If a predator hasn’t captured enough prey it will also die of starvation. Record the results and discuss any relationships the students observe. For example, the predators were really fast so fewer prey survived.

    Discuss some of the following questions:

    1. What were successful hunting techniques used by the predators?
    2. What were ways the prey escaped the predator? Which were the easiest?
    3. What did the predator do when the prey froze?
    4. How is the predator a limiting factor for the prey?
    5. What are important adaptations for both the predator and prey?




    1. Vary the amount of predators and keep track of the amount of prey left at the end of the game. Keep the games about the same length of time. You could graph the results on a spreadsheet and relate to limiting factors and predator/prey relationships. For example, if you had one predator, many prey should survive. Have the students create predator/prey stories that relate to the graphs.

    2. Try camouflaging the predators. The prey get really frustrated because they cannot tell who is trying to capture them. Usually more prey will die.





    Have the students complete the bar graph. Use one color for the prey and one for the predator. Label the axis "Number of Survivors." Then have the students answer the questions. They may need reference material for information on predators and their prey.




    Project Wild K-12 Activity Guide 1995 p. 122-123 "Quick Frozen Critters"















    Name and number: ________________


    Predator/Prey Relationships





































































































































































































    Prey Predator Prey Predator Prey Predator Prey Predator

    Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4


    1. Graph the results of each Predator/Prey game.

    1. What do you notice about Predator/Prey relationships?




    2. What do animals need to stay alive?



    3. What are some good adaptations or qualities needed for predators?



    4. What are some good adaptations or qualities of prey?




    5. Write a story about a real life predator and prey relationship.