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Invasive Species

A Water Ecology Lesson

Elementary, Middle


Invasive species cause tremendous environmental damage by altering ecosystem balance, impacting water quality and reducing biodiversity. The key to mitigating the impacts of these aliens is prevention.  This resource explores how invasive species can disrupt aquatic habitats by engaging students in games and research that stimulate curiosity.  Learning is focused on positive action as students achieve the following outcomes:

  • Define and describe invasive species.
  • Identify how invasive species are transported into new areas.
  • Describe how invasive species disrupt aquatic ecosystems.
  • Describe how humans can help prevent the spread of these animals and plants.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Classification of plants and animals
  • Predicting cause and effect relationships
  • Critical thinking


  • Supported by useful web resources such as videos and species pictures
  • Organized and easy to use


  • No assessment strategies are included
  • There is limited student background information

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource supports Science units that explore habitats, interactions within ecosystem, food webs and human impacts on environmental sustainability.  The lesson could also be used to reinforce key concepts prior to a field trip to explore an aquatic habitat.

This lesson could also be extended by having students use new scientific learning in meaningful conservation initiatives.  Promoting boat washing at local lakes, raising community awareness of how to prevent the spread of invasive species and organizing a plant "pulling" event are all examples of community based action projects.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

Themes Addressed

  • Ecosystems (2)

    • Biodiversity
    • Invasive Species

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

Students learn that invasive species introductions are usually not a conscious choice but result from accidental entries into habitats.  This idea promotes a problem solving strategy that focuses on constructive solutions instead of destructive blame.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

This resource takes a holistic approach to examining invasive species impacts by defining how habitats, biodiversity, fisheries and recreation are all affected

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Satisfactory

Students are able to explore scientific cause and effect relationships and use this information to describe interactions within ecosystems and develop new ideas about conservation.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered
Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Satisfactory

Students define and describe personal conservation goals that may help slow the spread of invasive species.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Satisfactory

The "Ecosystem Web Activity" highlights how invasive species disrupt the natural balance of habitats.  This demonstration supports the development of a stewardship ethic.

Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Satisfactory

This resource is very content specific for Georgian Bay.  However, the topic is high profile environmental concern across Canada and the resource could become more locally focused by substituting examples of invasive plants and animals found nearby. 

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Satisfactory

Students are encouraged to become active participants in preventing the spread of invasive species in their community.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Good

Open ended questions support critical thinking and analysis as students formulate ideas about ecosystem impacts of invasive species.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Poor/Not considered
Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Satisfactory

The use of the food web activity and the jeopardy game encourages active engagement and motivates students to become involved in the learning by formulating ideas and opinions.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.


Differentiated Instruction Poor/Not considered
Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

A teacher could enhance the experiential aspect of this lesson with an outdoor component that surveys a local habitat for the presence of invasive plants like purple loosestrife.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Poor/Not considered
Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Satisfactory

Assessment strategies are limited in this resource but questioning and  "Invasive Species Crime Scene" worksheet could be used as a formative assessment.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Poor/Not considered
Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Satisfactory

Students examine videos of authentic problems in the Georgian Bay region.  Many of the plants and animals examined are found in other regions of Canada.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Poor/Not considered
Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.