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In the core activity of this resource students participate in a game that simulates the impact that invasive species can have on an ecosystem. Classmates take on the roles of the key components making up the food web found in Okanagan Lake, BC. As students representing an invasive shrimp enter the game, changes become evident at the various trophic levels that include a decline in the highly-valued native Kokanee salmon. Although this particular situation is playing out in real time in British Columbia, it is representative of ecosystem dynamics in general. In addition to illustrating issues around the introduction of invasive species, the resource provides extensive background to support the teaching the ecosystem concept.
Warm-Up: After discussing the key communities comprising the Kohanee food web, students take part in a simple but effective hands-on activity that demonstrates the energy flow and interconnections that characterize the biotic and abiotic components of the Okanagan Lake ecosystem.
Simulation: In a ‘tag-like’ game, students take on the roles of the different plant and animal populations and strive to survive in Okanagan Lake. As the game progresses and students representing an invasive species of shrimp are introduced, competition with Kohanee salmon for the same food source creates problems for the ecosystem that the students experience first-hand.
Wrap-up: Students discuss their understanding of the changes that ‘played out’ during the game. Key points to guide the discussion are provided to help students appreciate the complexity of population dynamics within an ecosystem as well as the challenges presented by invasive species. Students are tasked to come up with solutions to the problem of declining Kohanee numbers.
This activity provides a highly enjoyable outdoor experience in support of lessons addressing habitat basics, ecosystem dynamics and invasive species. Physical education teachers should find this activity worthwhile as well.
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