Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Food Chain

As many of you know, my school uses the Unique Learning System (ULS) curriculum for our severely cognitively impaired students. There is a unit theme each month, and October's unit for my age level is all about the food chain (it touches on ecosystems, too, but I am going to deemphasize that part since combining the two is going to be way too much for my students).

Elizabeth from Special Education - A Work of Heart recently sent me a message asking for some ideas for supplementing this unit, which she is also teaching in October. I admit, I have some of the same reservations she does about this unit. I love ULS, but the materials can be quite dry, and this month in particular seems to be very broad and covers quite a lot! How to make it accessible and relevant to my students...Hmm...

I am still creating materials for this unit, as I usually spend the first two weeks doing mostly curriculum activities and then the last part of the month supplementing and reinforcing with my own or other teacher-created materials and activities. I will be sure to post as soon as I finalize my materials to share! In the meantime, here are a few activity ideas I have and will probably do in my classroom throughout the month:

-The Little Red Hen - this story is great for talking about where our food comes from - which is my very literal students' best connection to the food chain. We have done many activities relating to this story in the past, which have included sequencing the story, making bread, writing/sequencing steps to make bread, and it can go into social/character lessons of being helpful, the importance of contributing to something you consume, too. My favorite version of this story is by Jerry Pinkney - it's gorgeous! I also love to use The Little Red Hen (Makes a Pizza) and do some compare/contrast activities with the two.

-Apples! Great for fall (though the Michigan apple crop was decimated by the weather this year), apples are awesome demonstrations of, again, where our food comes from. We will do a lot of apple activities. Look for a Tasty Tuesday post soon on making our own applesauce from scratch (because applesauce does not always come from a jar at Meijer!). I love using apples for food source demonstrations, because it's so easy to cut them open and find the seeds...We talk about planting seeds, and what seeds need to grow into plants - trees - buds - flowers - apples...And when we cook with apples, we always remember to put our peelings and cores out in the woods just beyond our classroom window for the squirrels and the deer (very plentiful around our area) to eat - another connection to a more complete food chain!

-Farm Visit - We already have a visit to a local orchard/farm scheduled for the end of October. Like I said, the apple crop was basically destroyed this year, so we will probably focus more on the farm part of the visit, which connects to our animal food chain part of our unit. We will learn about what the animals eat and how they grow, what foods come from the animals, how the animals help the farm (yes - we will talk about manure - why not?!), etc.

...And if anyone has other wonderful ideas or resources for a (very basic) unit on the food chain and related topics, let me know! I will be sure to post my own created materials once they're ready :)

More about the Unique Learning System is here!


  1. Excited to see what you come up with for the food chain. I don't have many resources myself, so I am looking forward to your creations!

  2. Kara, thanks so much for the suggestions! This month's unit is definitely putting me to the challenge. It seems like such a broad range of topics to narrow down for my kids. I wasn't sure where to put my focus this month. I like your idea of keeping the focus more on the food chain and not so much on ecosystems. I'm eager to see what supplemental materials you come up with for the 2nd half of the unit. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  3. I have been checking out the ULS curriculum and thinking how sweet it would be if we had it because I would have so many things already created for me...but I guess really whatever we are using we will still have to create a lot just because no one understands their students like their teacher!


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