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Alien Invaders: Threats to Biodiversity

Elementary, Middle

Description

Based on the popular "Murder Handshake" game, this resource provides students with an opportunity to learn how invasive species affect our environment.  The lesson specifically focuses on the invasive European Common Reed (Phragmites australis) which is severely impacting wetlands in some regions of Canada.  The plant crowds out native vegetation, thus destroying local habitat.  Using a wetland food web as a model and the "Alien Invader" game to demonstrate impacts, students learn that all living things are connected and the loss of even one species can affect many other species.  Assessment questions at the end of the lesson determine the level of student understanding regarding biological diversity and the impacts of invasive species.  Students also consider action strategies that can help reduce the threat of invasive species.

In this activity based resource students will:

  • Create wetland food webs before and after an invasive species has entered the wetland.
  • Identify and define the ecological terms herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, producer and consumer.
  • Play the "Alien Invader" game with the goal of uncovering the threat to a coastal wetland.
  • Describe why it is important to protect biodiversity.
  • Explain how invasive species reduce biodiversity.
  • Identify ways in which the biodiversity of coastal wetlands can be protected from invasive species.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Creating a food web.
  • Analyzing information and communication of new learning.
  • Cooperative learning and planning.
  • Brainstorming to identify solutions to the invasive species issue.
  • Predicting cause and effect relationships that exist in environmental issues.

Strengths

  • Actively engages all students.
  • Focuses on an issue that is timely and current.
  • Lesson is well laid out with clearly defined steps.
  • Provides many opportunities for classroom dialogue.
  • Easily adapted for other regions of Canada.

Weaknesses

  • The wetland species cards used in the activity are not included in the resource and must be downloaded from the website.
  • Assumes prior knowledge of wetland species by students.
  • No action projects included with the resource.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource would enhance any unit that examines biodiversity, habitats, or interactions within ecosystems.  As a follow up to the lesson, students could select one particular invasive species and do an internet research project where they identify the potential impacts of that species on a wetland or forest ecosystem. 

If a school is close to a wetland area students could participate in a field survey where they collect data about the relative abundance of invasive plants such as European Common Reed or Purple Loosestrife.  A local biologist could be invited into the classroom to help students with their data collection and presentation.  If students discover a problem in the wetland area they survey, they could present their results to a local organization concerned with this issue such as a watershed association.

After participating in the Alien Invaders lesson students could prepare a school-wide awareness campaign with posters that identify invasive species and methods to control their spread.

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.

  • Step 1Select a province
  • Alberta
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Wetland Ecosystems
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions and Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
  • British Columbia
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    • Grade 4
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 4: All living things sense and respond to their envionment
  • Manitoba
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        • Habitat and Communities
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      • Science
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        • Diversity of Living Things
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions Within Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth
  • New Brunswick
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    • Grade 4
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      • Science
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        • Habitats
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      • Science
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        • Diversity of Life
    • Grade 7
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions Within Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth
  • Newfoundland & Labrador
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats
    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Diversity of Life
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interaction of Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth's Surface
  • Northwest Territories
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    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
    • Grade 5
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    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Diversity of Living Things
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions and Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
  • Nova Scotia
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
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    • Grade 6
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    • Grade 7
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 7: Interactions Within Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 8: Water Systems on Earth
  • Nunavut
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    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Habitats & Communities
    • Grade 5
      • Step 3Select a subject
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Life Systems: Diversity of Living Things
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions and Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Freshwater and Saltwater Systems
        • Interactions in Our Environment
  • Ontario
  • Prince Edward Island
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats
    • Grade 6
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Diversity of Life
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Interactions Within Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Water Systems on Earth
  • Saskatchewan
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Habitats and Communities
    • Grade 6
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 6: Life Science: Diversity of Living Things
    • Grade 7
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 7: Life Science: Interactions within Ecosystems
    • Grade 8
      • Step 3Select a subject
      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 8: Water Systems on Earth
  • Yukon Territory
    • Step 2Select a grade level
    • Grade 4
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      • Science
        • Step 4Relevant matches
        • Science 4: All living things sense and respond to their envionment

Themes Addressed

  • Ecosystems (3)

    • Biodiversity
    • Habitat Loss
    • Invasive Species

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

This resource presents the issue of invasive species as an experience where students can develop their own ideas about human impacts on the spread and distribution of these species.

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 food web activity, game and subsequent discussion explore the environmental and social aspects of habitat loss. Students are also given an opportunity to brainstorm solutions to the invasive species problem.

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 Good

Students are able to self discover the complex aspects of habitat loss that results from the presence of invasive species.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

Students identify actions that can be taken at home to reduce the spread of invasive species , but no specific action opprtunities are supported by the resource.

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

The topic is presented in such a way that supports student consideration of their own viewpoints regarding the control of invasive species, however the resource only profiles scientific viewpoints related to the issue.  Other groups affected by invasive species such as farmers and anglers are not represented in the resource.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered

Not considered in this resource.

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

Students are encouraged to be concerned with the destructive impacts of invasive species on the health of ecosystems.

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 Good

This resource does an excellent job of being relevant to the lives of students living in regions affected by the European Common Reed.  In some areas of Canada other invasive species such as Purple Loosestrife are a more significant threat. However, a teacher could readily adapt this resource to focus on other invasive species.

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

The resource includes a small amount of historical information about the introduction of European Common Reed and students consider how the continual spread of this species could impact wetlands 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 have several opportunities for unrestricted dialogue throughout the lesson.  They are also able to process new learning and ideas independently.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Satisfactory

This resource is strictly a science resource although a teacher could incorporate language arts by having students present or write about their new ideas.

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 game helps students enjoy learning about the topic of invasive species by actively engaging them in the process.  The class discussion afterwards requires the students to think critically about the topic.

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

There are no suggestions for accommodations in the resource, however the game structure of the activities should meet the needs of a variety of learning styles.

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 activities simulates ecological damage from invasive species but there is no direct learning within a wetland ecosystem.

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 Good

In the "Alien Invaders" game students are dependent on each other for information.  In the class discussions the students have an opportunity to evaluate each other's ideas.

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

The only assessment opportunity presented in this lesson is the whole class discussion at the end of each activity.

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

Not considered in this resource

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 Poor/Not considered

Not considered in this resource.

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

This resource is presented as a whole class activity and there are no extensions included with the resource.

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.