Feeding Facilitation: A Lesson in Evolution and Sociobiology

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This is an outdoor activity designed to demonstrate evolution of feeding behavior in flocking, schooling or herding animals that maximizes allocation of food resources and enhances survival. Learners simulate foraging by searching for and gathering toothpicks. While there are many exercises which utilize toothpicks and other materials to demonstrate food selection made by animals as an illustration of various aspects of Natural Selection, "Feeding Facilitation" is an attempt to show the relationship between energy costs of foraging and predator avoidance (optimum foraging theory) with flocking behavior and their relationship to evolution. Learners with a wide range of abilities can complete this activity successfully because "energy expenditure" relates to the number of food items collected and can be easily seen.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Learning Time:
1 to 2 hours

Estimated Materials Cost:
$5 - $10 per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Simulation


Materials List (per group of students)

  • 600 toothpicks for each part of the exercise
  • Small plastic bags
  • Small containers, each with a small hole drilled into the lid
  • Stop watch
  • Video camera and TV (optional)


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Animals
    • Ecology
      • Populations
      • Energy Flow and Chemical Cycles
    • Evolution
      • Mechanisms of Evolution
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Conducting Investigations
      • Gathering Data
      • Formulating Explanations
      • Communicating Results

Informal Categories

  • Animals
  • Nature and Environment
  • Outdoor Activity
  • Physical Activity


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • be mobile
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Bejda, Vickie