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Invasives in the Classroom

Elementary, Middle

Description

This teacher's guide, developed for use in BC is part of a comprehensive web site that contains a variety of resources for educating young people about the negative environmental consequences of invasive species.  With an emphasis on plants, the guide contains nine learning units covering topics that include how invasive species spread and become established, and how non-native species can affect the traditional use of native plant species by First Nations communities.  The outdoor activities provide students with an opportunity to gather information about invasive plants in their community and contribute to resolving a local environmental issue.  

Students will:

  • Compare and describe the features of local plants.
  • Analyze mechanisms of transport of invasive species.
  • Examine ecosystem food webs.
  • Describe features of their natural environment.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of how personal choices can affect the environment.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Classification of plants and animals based on appearance and habitat.
  • Analysis of data from scientific investigations.
  • Critical thinking.
  • Predicting cause and effect relationships that exist in environmental issues.

Strengths

  • Supported by useful web resources such as slide shows, videos and species pictures.
  • Emphasis on hands-on activities.
  • Includes outdoor exploration activities.
  • Has a significant First Nations component.
  • Organized and easy to use.

Weaknesses

  • One of the activities, "Invasive Plant Bingo", does not come with supporting resources. They must be ordered from the publisher of the guide.
  • No assessment strategies included.
  • No suggestions for accommodations.
  • The invasive plant lists are very BC specific.  Links to information in other Provinces are not included.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource would provide valuable support to the study of habitats or interactions within ecosystems.  The "Vectors of Spread" lab would also assist students in learning about adaptations by demonstrating some of the unique methods of seed dispersal that have evolved in plants. 

The lessons in this resource could form the basis of a number of classroom action projects that have students using new scientific learning in meaningful conservation initiatives.  The data collected in their habitat investigation could be presented to the community and an invasive plant "pulling" event could be organized.  Students could also promote boat washing at local fishing events and place posters of invasive plant species in local garden centres.

The traditional ecological knowledge presented in this resource could be expanded upon by having a First nations elder accompany a class to an area that provides important traditional plants.  Students could catalogue and identify the species they find and present the information to the First Nations community.

Relevant Curriculum Units

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Themes Addressed

  • Citizenship (1)

    • General Guide to Taking Action
  • Ecosystems (2)

    • Biodiversity
    • Invasive Species
  • Indigenous Knowledge (1)

    • TEK -- Traditional Ecological Knowledge
  • Land Use & Natural Resources (1)

    • Planting Native Species

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Good

The "Specialist" videos provide students with an opportunity to listen to a wide range of experts on the topic of invasive species.  This aspect of the resource combined with open-ended activities supports critical thinking and analysis as students formulate opinions and ideas about this subject.

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 primarily addresses the environmental consequences of invasive species.  However, the First Nations content does provide an interesting social perspective that is often neglected when considering invasive species impacts. Teachers will have to take steps to bring economic considerations into the discussion.

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

The activities in this resource provide the necessary background in the relationship between invasive species and native species on an ecosystem level. 

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

In the "What You Can Do!" activity students explore options for personal actions that can help prevent the spread of invasive species.  This activity focuses students' attention on the easily attainable positive changes they can make at home that have beneficial impacts on the environment.  The activities in the resource also provide students with a strong foundation that could lead to action projects where students address the invasive species issue in their 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 Good

This resource facilitates student discussion about their own impact on the environment and fosters a move towards action by providing simple strategies for change that can occur at home.  Students will realize that they can become active participants in preventing the spread of invasive species in their community.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Good

This resource encourages students to respect the traditional ecological knowledge contributions of First Nations cultures.  If, as the resource suggests, a member of the local aboriginal community was invited to the school to complement this learning, it would make the experience even more meaningful.

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

The outdoor experience combined with the aboriginal cultural exchanges will foster a deeper appreciation for the connection between humans and the earth.

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 is very content specific for BC. However the topic of invasive species is a high profile environmental concern across Canada.  The activities in this guide are also well suited to other regions since many of the invasive plants are found throughout  our country.  The exploration of a local habitat for invasive plants also makes the activities personally relevant for students.

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

This resource is not intended to focus on the topic of invasive species from a historical perspective.  The goal of the lessons and activities is to provide an authentic learning experience with regards to the current state of the invasive species problem in the local community.  The lessons also emphasize how collective individual actions can have a significant role in preventing further ecological damage from invasive species.

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

The lab activities and field exercises provide students with many opportunities to answer questions through investigation and analysis.

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 has a strong science focus and also incorporates social studies outcomes that explore the strong interconnections between First Nations people and their environment.  Several of the lessons include English Language Arts activities such as responding to media and descriptive writing.

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 Good

The use of games, labs and outdoor activities encourages active engagement, inquiry and motivate students to become involved in learning about invasive species.  The expert videos also develop a critical thinking process where students will analyze a variety of viewpoints to reach their own conclusions about this environmental 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

The resource does not contain any inclusive learning strategies, however the hands-on approach of many of the activities will help to adddress different 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 Very Good

"Local Invasive Plants" and "Plant Press" provide students with an opportunity to survey and catalogue non-native and native plants within a local habitat.  The use of the "Vectors of Spread" lab also actively engages students in the discovery of methods of seed dispersal in a hands-on approach.  The resource's emphasis on "learning by doing" promotes a meaningful and relevant experience.

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

Many of the lessons take place in a whole class format, although there are opportunities for group work in the outdoor exploration and laboratory activities.

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 suggestions are limited in this resource. There are some options for formative assessment through questioning. 

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

The peer teaching that arises from the lessons is primarily a result of group work or whole class discussions.  However, there is a strong emphasis on action at home to prevent the spread of invasive species.  Thus, students will be able to apply new knowledge by engaging their family members in discussions about this topic.

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

Although no actual case studies are included, the exploration of a local piece of habitat for the presence of invasive plants offers students the opportunity to replicate how scientists survey natural areas and collect (case study) data. 

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.