The Sun Gives Energy to the Earth | Juan Cabrillo

A great way to observe the life in a garden is to discuss the Garden Food Chain. Many of my students have already been exposed to this but it was great for them to learn it in a Nature setting. Gleaning from their memories, I volunteered their help in creating a 5-step example of a food chain.


I began with the question: “Do you know where we get our energy from?” One-by-one, we filled in the diagram, beginning with the Sun and ending with Humans. We discussed a TON of vocabulary: Primary, Secondary and Tertiary consumers. Herbivore, Carnivore and Omnivore. Photosynthesis. The students learned that the order of the chain is smallest creature to largest and that the consumers only eat the next consumer in line, not the previous one (e.g. a lizard eats a butterfly but a butterfly does NOT eat a lizard). They were also surprised to find that humans eat birds, haha 😀 We drew arrows in the direction the energy was being passed. We discovered that, based on our diagram, it takes 5 steps for humans to get energy from the sun.

Afterwards, we went into the garden to find two steps of the garden food chain in real life. The students did a great job!

one student, showing me her work

one student, showing me her work

2 steps: sun --> basil --> moth (picture by Hope Cox)

2 steps: sun –> basil –> moth (picture by Hope Cox)

Hope Cox

Native to Tennessee, Hope fell in love with urban farming while majoring in Nutrition/Dietetics at UT Chattanooga. She volunteered at an urban farm there for two years and gleaned (pun intended!) bushels of knowledge about harvesting & planting, CSA box coordination, farmers market stands, school field trips, farm-to-table and more. When Hope moved to Los Angeles in late 2014, she began volunteering with EnrichLA and soon after became a Ranger. She loves sharing with her elementary students the hands-on experience of gardening, finding bugs, composting and eating from the garden. The expression of glee on the students' faces when they discover a new critter or favorite vegetable is the best part of Hope's day! One day, she hopes to be a real farmer in the country but for now is glad to be learning the ins-and-outs of inner-city farming.