Predator or Prey? – Grades 3 – 4

3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade

This activity addresses predator and prey species and their adaptations.

Prey, predator, adaptation, food chain, producer, consumer, decomposer,

Students will:

  • describe predator/prey relationships and related adaptations
  • explain the importance of adaptations to the relationship of predator/prey
  • describe how wildlife populations are limited by predator/prey relationship

Lesson Essential Question(s)

Big Idea #3d

Essential Question – How do animals use adaptations to enable them to survive as part of the prey/predator relationship?

  • slips of paper labeled prey or predator – one predator to four – six prey
  • tokens (3 per student)
  • whistle
  • labels (on yarn) to distinguish predators
  • objects (bases) to mark corners of field
  • 4-5 hula hoops or pieces of rope to serve as “cover” spots
  • large area such as a gym or playing field

W – Teacher reviews food web, and explores roles and adaptations necessary for prey/predator survival.

H – Students will partner to create food webs using animals with which they are familiar

E – Students will participate in an activity simulating prey/predator relationship and adaptations used for survival

R – Students will participate in an “After activity discussion” about the roles they played in the simulation activity

E – Students will role play as prey/predator to formulate ideas as to adaptations necessary for survival.

T – Used partner work, drawing, role play, oral speaking, and group discussion.

O – Lesson is organized in a sequential manner: beginning with review (partner drawing & share), discussion of lesson concepts, simulation activity, and post activity discussion.

Instructional Procedures

Background: Animals display a variety of behaviors in predator/prey relationships. These are adaptations for survival.

Some of these behaviors are: flight, posturing in a fighting position, signaling to others, finding cover, and “freezing” on the spot to escape detection by prey. The type of behavior depends in part on the proximity to the predator when detected. If the predatror is a distance away, the prey may just signal others of the presence the threat. If the predator comes closer, the prey may attempt to run away. However if the predator is too close to flee safely, the prey may scurry for a hiding place. If none of these alternatives are feasible, the prey will “freeze” in place.

This “freezing” occurs as a kind of physiological shock in the animals. Many times humans come upon animals suddenly and see them “frozen” and think they are unafraid – not realizing the physiological aspect of the immobility.

This lesson and activity is for students to recognize the importance of adaptations to both predators and prey.


1. Review basic food chains. Partner the students, and ask each pair to draw a basic food chain consisting of animals with which they are familiar. After approximately 10 minutes ask partners to share and explain their drawings. Ask “Do the food chains contain any predators or prey species?

2. Write two columns: Prey and Predator on the board. Ask the students to help create the lists. Example: rabbits/coyotes, squirrels/hawks, deer/humans, etc.

3. Ask students, Are there ways prey avoid predators?” Ask the students, “How many of you have ever seen an animal in the “wild” appear to be “frozen” or standing completely still ? Call on students to share their experiences. Explain that this is a type of adaptation many animals use to stay alive. Tell them that this occurs when the animal is too close to a perceived predator to run or hide, so they “freeze” in place in an attempt to not be seen.

4. Ask the students, “What other adaptation(s) would help the animals appear “invisible” while they are “frozen?” Example: camouflage, shelter, or hiding place.

5. Ask the students, “What other ways to prey attempt to escape from predators?” List the ways on the board. Example: warning others, running away, or hide.

6. Ask the students, “How do predators typically catch their prey?”. Ask for examples. Ask the students, “What adaptations do predators have that help them stay invisible from their prey”?


Explain to the students they will be participating in an activity very similar to Freeze Tag.

Establish the rules:

  • All students must behave in ways that are safe to others, even when acting as a predator
  • Prey: Must move from the permanent shelter to the food source, collecting only one food token each trip. To survive they must collect three food tokens. While making trips from shelter to food, they may use these adaptation for survival: signaling others, running to shelter, or “freezing.” While “frozen” they may blink but otherwise must make no movement or sound.
  • Predator: Attempt to capture only moving (not “frozen”) prey. Must capture two prey to survive. Once they tag prey, the predator has to walk the “prey” to the designated area on the sidelines.
  1. Have students choose roles by picking from the labeled (prey/predator) slips of paper.
  2. Go to game area and identify one end as “shelter” and the other as “food source.”
  3. Place the hula hoops (or rope circles) in the area between the shelter & food source to stand for cover or extra shelters.
  4. Place the tokens in the food source area (three per prey)
  5. Identify predators with labels on yarn.
  6. Set a time limit of five to seven minutes per round. Remind prey they may stay frozen as long as they like, but they must have three pieces of food by the end of the activity or they will starve to death.
  7. At the end of the first round switch roles so each child experiences being both prey and predator
  8. Go back to classroom for discussion of activity

Post Activity Discussion:

Ask the students to describe their experiences as both predator and prey. Ask: What ways did they use to avoid capture when playing role of prey? Which were easiest or most effective? What methods did the predators use do to capture prey? What did they do when the prey were “frozen?” How were the various adaptations beneficial for both predators and prey.

Observe students during class and group discussions, providing feedback in order to facilitate fair and appropriate group work.

Monitor groups to ensure students are developing accurate understanding of concepts,and correct where needed.

Provide feedback and guide student understanding during the activity in order to help students understand the prey/predator relationship and adaptations necessary for survival.

Quick Frozen Critters from Project WILD

Hazardous Links from Project WILD

Project WILD can be obtained by attending a workshop. Contact the PA Game Commission headquarters for information.

Also see food chain fun in the SAS lesson plans

predator, prey, food chain, adaptations

Theresa Alberici; Sarina Hoover Adapted from Project WILD “Quick Frozen Critters”.


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