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Meet the Invaders

Secondary, Middle

Description

This classroom resource is the second of a four-unit series designed to raise student awareness of the problems associated with non-native, invasive species.  The unit uses simulations, art, word games, a dramatic presentation, and science activities to illustrate some of the unique adaptations of  invasive species that help them outperform native species and bring about serious environmental and economic consequences.  It asks students to examine how the introduction of invasive species is tied to specific human actions and has them analyze the design processes used by companies producing seed mixes that contain potentially invasive plants. Finally students will recognize that decisions we make today have far-reaching implications for the sustainability of the future.

Each lesson can serve as a stand alone activity or can be combined with other lessons to provide a comprehensive unit. A short summary of each lesson follows.

Ad-libbed Aliens    ( 2 X 60min)

Using the ‘mad-lib” model students create funny stories about invasive plants. They are then introduced to real plants whose strange adaptations allow them to out-compete native species. Students are asked to write a short story about an invasive species.  As an extension, students create drawings of invasive species on cards and other students are asked to match written descriptions to the appropriate picture.

Bioblunder Tribunal (5 X 60min)

After reading trial briefs students write scripts and hold mock trials to determine if the individuals or groups responsible for introducing invasive species should be held accountable for their actions. Students have the option  of doing an internet-based research project on an introduced invasive species, or using the trial briefs. Extension activities include a news search for current stories on the impact of invasive species and a research project on a local invasive species that traces its path to North America.

Super Alien (2 X 60min)

After the teacher introduces the hydrilla and its amazing adaptations for survival, students are given sets of cards which contain information on the unique adaptations of other aquatic invasive species (purple loosestrife, Eurasian water-millfoil,  reed canary grass, common reed grass, curly pondweed, and narrow-leaf cattail). Pairs of students are asked to design and draw a super alien that can out-compete a naturally-occurring aquatic plant and invade a specific environment. Their creations are presented to the class. An extension activity asks the students to find a local invasive species, track the country of origin, means of invasion, special adaptations, and methods of control. Students are also asked to help to track local invasions.

Outwit-Outplant-Outlast (2 X 60min)

In this outdoor simulation, students role play the parts of native species, invasive plants, and herbivores to see the advantages that invasives have over natives and the many vulnerabilities of native species such as competition, predation, dependence on nutrients, as well as space and water availability. Teachers facilitate discussion questions after each game and graphs are drawn to illustrate changes in plant populations. Students then write a short paragraph predicting what will happen in the future. In the extension activity, students create “Wanted” posters for local invasive species.

Meadow In A Can ( 3 x 60min)

Using seed packets, students will practice being cautious consumers and decide if a seed mix should be planted or if it contains a potentially invasive plant. Students will examine the marketing/packaging, the seed lists and the origin of seed mixes.

They then design a wildflower package that shows truth in labeling and after researching local plant species, put together a native seed mix. Finally they create labels for non-native species that will inform people of the potential problems associated with growing them.

As an extension activity students are encouraged to plant local species in a landscaping project and to encourage the community to use local ecotypes when doing the same.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Creative thinking skills
  • Inferring and explaining relationships
  • Working cooperatively with group members
  • Speaking and communicating thoughts and ideas
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using technology for research

Strengths

  • Good out of doors experience
  • The resource offers a wide range of activities
  • Lessons are well organized and include objectives, prep-time, activity time, materials needed, and grade level
  • Students will enjoy the games and simulation activities
  • The resource encourages creativity and individual expression
  • Has a multi-disciplinary approach
  • Group work allows for shared dialogue and incidental peer teaching
  • Has effective case studies
  • It promotes community awareness
  • Has an experiential activity 
  • The instructions for the game in lesson 4 are very well written

Weaknesses

  • For some of the activities teachers will need to spend time collecting essential materials
  • Limited background material provided for teachers or students
  • Teachers will want to research non-native invasive species in the local area

Recommendation of how and where to use it

In science classes these materials will help demonstrate how the unique adaptations of many species effect interactions in an ecosystem. It is also relevant to geography classes that explore the link between human activity and the environmental and economic sustainability of local ecosystems.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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Themes Addressed

Citizenship (1)

  • Community-Building and Participation

Ecosystems (4)

  • Biodiversity
  • Habitat Loss
  • Interdependence
  • Invasive Species

Land Use & Natural Resources (1)

  • Planting Native Species

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Satisfactory

This resource emphasizes the importance of preventing the introduction and spread of invasive species. The resource emphasizes the abilities of non-natives to outcompete native species and the negative impacts that invasive species have on ecosystems. Any benefits of non-native species are not discussed.

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

The intoduction of non-native invasive species through human activity is linked to environmental and economic sustainability.

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

Although not examining all aspects of the issue the resource will provide opportunities to do so by promoting discussion and dialogue within groups of students.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

Students encourage the preservation of local ecotypes by creating seed mixes of local native species and giving these to members of the community.

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
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 Good
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 Very Good

Students are encouraged to research local, native plant species and to create seed mixes to give to community members.

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 Good

Students are exposed to present day situations through various activities. Students may be motivated to to play a role in implementing solutions to prevent the spread of invasive species in the future.

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

Students are encouraged to think for themselves and develop/express their own opinions. There are opportunities to link to their own experience and the activities encourage student interaction and participation.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Good

This is primarily a science resource but there are opportunities to address outcomes in language arts, art, and geography.

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
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 Satisfactory

A variety of teaching methods are used to address both the cogntive and affective domains. There are no accommodations or modifications suggested for struggling learners.

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

The 'Meadow in the Can' lesson provides an interesting and relevent hands-on learning opportunity.

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 Satisfactory
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 Poor/Not considered

Assessment ideas are suggested, by it is up to the teacher to design their own assessment tools.

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 Satisfactory
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 Good

The trial briefs in lesson two offer students real case studies of the introduction of invasive species.

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 Satisfactory

Students are given opportunities to respond and reflect on what they discover. The assessment suggestions are broad and allow students to go deeper into an issue of their choice.

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.