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Year 7 - 8 students

The chain in my lunchbox

He raupapa kame kei roto i taku pouaka tina.

New Zealand Curriculum connections
NZC connections provide a starting point for aligning the content and inquiry on this page with NZC achievement aims, including core subjects like mathematics and English.


Investigating in science (NoS). 

  • Ask questions, find evidence, explore simple models, and carry out appropriate investigations to develop simple explanations.

  • Build on prior experiences, working together to share and examine their own and others’ knowledge.


Understanding about science (NoS). 

  • Identify ways in which scientists work together and provide evidence to support their ideas.


Participating and contributing (NoS), 

  • Use their growing science knowledge when considering issues of concern to them.

  • Explore various aspects of an issue and make decisions about possible actions.

Life processes (L3-4). Recognise that there are life processes common to all living things and that these occur in different ways.


Ecology (L3-4). Explain how living things are suited to their particular habitat and how they respond to environmental changes, both natural and human-induced.


Chemistry and society (L3-4). Relate the observed, characteristic chemical and physical properties of a range of different materials to technological uses and natural processes. 

Related Big Ideas and Science Concepts

Overview: The chain in my lunchbox

Key messages
  • Agricultural society is the basis for modern civilisation.
  • The macronutrients in our food are carbohydrates (also called sugars), fat, fiber, protein, and water.  
  • A food web describes the feeding connections between organisms in a community. 
Related information

Agriculture and Horticulture

  • Agriculture and horticulture is the difference between there being a few million people on Earth and there being billions of people on Earth.

  • Farmers learned early in the history of agriculture and horticulture that managing soil to ensure that soil conditions are ideal for plant growth is critical for healthy plant and animal growth and therefore food production.

  • Providing additional nutrients in the form of fertilisers and composts allows soils to remain productive.  As crops are harvested nutrients that have been used by the growing plants are removed from the soil system and must be replaced if soil is to remain productive.

  • Having a society based on survival from produce created a need to protect the investment people made in the land including the productivity of the land.


Māori land use (More information at Te Ara.)

  • Early Māori were great farmers and brought with them knowledge of soils. Like modern soil scientists, they used observation and experimentation to gather data and developed processes to modify the soil.

  • Māori added stones, and charcoal to lighten and to help warm the soil. The kūmara were planted into mounds (puke) to improve drainage and arranged into rows to improve access.



  • All the food that humans eat contains nutrients that plants have taken from the soil (N, P, K) and captured from the atmosphere (C ).  As plants grow the nutrients become part of the fruit, leaves and seeds that animals and humans eat.  Those nutrients have entered the food web.

  • Fruits and vegetables provide us with carbohydrates, fats, fibre and protein, as well as important vitamins and minerals.

  • Protein contains carbon (C ) and nitrogen (N). It is found in food such as eggs, cheese, milk, legumes, meat and fish.

  • Fats mostly contain carbon (C ). Foods that contain fats are butter, oil, nuts, meat, fish, and some dairy products.

  • Carbohydrates mostly contain carbon. Whole foods that contain carbohydrates include grains, fruit, and vegetables.

  • Some carbohydrates are much better for you than others.  The difference is to do with the amount of fibre or indigestible carbohydrates that are present in the food.  Carbohydrates from whole foods such as fruit, grains and vegetables contain lots of fibre, which is very good for you.

  • We get lots of other important nutrients from our food such as vitamins and minerals.


Food chains and food webs

  • Toxins can also enter food webs and be transferred in the same way as nutrients through food webs.

  • Both energy and nutrients flow through a food web, moving through organisms as they are consumed by an organism above them in the food web. 

  • A single path of energy through a food web is called a food chain.

  • Plants are at the bottom of the food chain and people are at the top. No animals eat us. Unless...

The birth of farming video
The journey of NZ's apple 

Learning resources

How nutritious is my lunch?

Ask what is in the children’s lunchboxes in order to discuss the components of food and a healthy diet.


Use Google searches to find out the nutritional value of the food in the lunchboxes. 


Connect the inquiry to class or individual publishing about the nutritional value of common lunchbox items.

“Nutritional content of food can be found by searching Google for *[nutrient] content of [food]*”


Stewardship of our land, Aotearoa.

Explore ethical issues related to farming and environmental sustainability. Learn about the range of perspectives among stakeholders.

By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

  • Explain some of the science involved in the issue

  • Explain some of the ethical aspects of the issue

  • Have some ideas about possible solutions.

Inquiry suggestions


Publishing provides an opportunity to integrate science capabilities or different curriculum areas.
"The task of creating a sustainable food production system on a global scale will be a challenge for future generations."
Tackling the wicked problem

The challenge of sustainable food production appears to have solutions when first considered. However, it gets complex when New Zealand's expected role of food producer for a growing world population is considered. 

When combined, the inquiry becomes a wicked problem - a problem that has no complete or immediate solution.

Challenge your students to advise our politicians, businesses or community on how to best balance our unique environment, New Zealand's role as a primary producer and the need to feed a growing world population.
Ask your students how they could help as individuals. What roles could they play when they become adults?
The birth of farming video
Biosecurity resource
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