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Invasive Species: A Biodiversity Challenge

Elementary, Middle


This multi-disciplinary resource features ten engaging lessons that focus on biodiversity and invasive species.  An ecosystem approach provides an authentic context  to help students understand what invasive species are and how these plants and animals can significantly impact the vital interdependence of organisms within habitats.  Although developed to support the Grade 6 Life Sciences curriculum, the strong English Language Arts, Math and Social Studies links make this resource applicable across a broad range of subject areas and grade levels.

In a combination of in-class and outdoor activities students will:

  • Define and explore types of invasive species.
  • Identify how organisms interact within ecosystems.
  • Respond to media information about invasive species.
  • Explore a local habitat to find and catalogue native and non-native species.
  • Initiate action to inform the community about the prevention of the spread of invasive species.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

  • Biological survey techniques
  • Cooperative learning
  • Media literacy
  • Number sense/numeration
  • Presentation and advocacy


  • Includes a very useful index that links lessons to specific curriculum outcomes.
  • Strong cross-curricular integration.
  • Includes an outdoor component.
  • Contains an extensive list of extra teacher resources.
  • Minimal supplies needed to complete activities.
  • Includes an action project.


  • Does not include pictures of invasive species, although fact sheets are available on the web site.
  • Invasive species video is not available on-line & will have to be ordered (free of charge)
  • Some activities are much longer than one class period which could disrupt continuity.
  • No rubrics or summative assessment tools are provided.

Recommendation of how and where to use it

This resource would make an excellent companion to any science unit with a focus on interactions within ecosystems.  The lessons could be used to explore concepts such as biodiversity, sustainability, habitat, food webs and stewardship.  The habitat exploration activity could also be used to introduce students to authentic scientific research, particularly if a local botanist was invited to accompany the class on their exploration. 

The resource would also support a class enrichment or action project focused on invasive species in the community.  The presentation that students prepare and deliver in "Spread the Word" could be developed into a video that is placed on the municipal website.  Students could also create brochures and fact sheets for the types of invasive species they found.  The class could also promote best management practices, such as washing boats between waterways, through the organization of community based events that demonstrate these techniques.

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

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 Good

This resource provides students with enough information so they can develop their own opinions about conservation efforts related to invasive 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

There is a strong focus on the environmental consequences of invasive species.  Participation in activities such as "Invader Web Quest" and "Ballast Water Debate" provide opportunities to explore the economic and social aspects of invasives.

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 topic of invasive species is a complex issue since the implementation of wide-scale control programs can sometimes negatively impact habitats while being prohibitively expensive.  The best management practice is the prevention of the spread of these species and this resource does an excellent job of presenting this approach.

Respects Complexity:

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

Acting on Learning Good

In the "Seeking Invaders" activity students are able to explore a local habitat for the presence of invasive species and report their findings.  This exercise offers first-hand experience in investigating ecosystems. A key component of the project requires students develop and implement a public awareness campaign concerning invasive species.  The goal of this project is for students to actively involve their local community in environmental conservation.

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

In the "Where do You Stand?" activity students respond to a statement about controlling invasive species before and after lessons about the environmental consequences of these organisms.  This gives students the opportunity to engage in dialogue with their peers and develop and expand their viewpoints based on new information.

Values Education:

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

Empathy & Respect for Humans Satisfactory

Through a variety of cooperative learning activities students are encouraged to respect other opinions and viewpoints but there are no specific lesson on diversity 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

Outdoor activities such as "Bioscape" foster an appreciation for the natural world by providing opportunities for students to closely observe nature. 

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

Invasive species are found throughout Canada, thus this topic is relevant to all students.  The resource was developed for use in Ontario but the activities are applicable to any region of Canada with substitutions for some of the species used.  The outdoor exploration also aids in making the lessons much more meaningful 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 Good

Activities such as "Sea Lamprey Suck" and "Invader Take Over" provide students with a good background in how invasive species become established.  Stewardship activities also actively engage students in environmental citizenship with the goal of stopping the spread of invasives in Canada.

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 activities in this resource are designed to allow students to reach their own conclusions concerning the information they are presented with.  Students use skills such as analyzing, brainstorming and predicting to answer questions and dialogue with peers.

Open-Ended Instruction :

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

Integrated Learning Good

In addition to the strong Science and English Language Arts curriculum links, this resource supports outcomes in Math, Social Studies, Visual Arts and Physical Education.

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 outdoor investigation component of this resource provides an authentic and meaningful learning experience where students are able to apply new learning in an exploratory context.

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

Although there are limited suggestions for accommodations within the individual lessons, the high quality visual and kinesthetic activities will appeal to a broad range 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 Good

The lessons in this resource have been developed with a constructivist approach that includes an authentic outdoor learning component where students investigate a local ecosystem for the presence of invasive plants.  They are also able to report their findings to invasive species hot lines or to the community which demonstrate very real applications of scientific investigation.

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

There are many opportunities for think-pair-share activities in this resource.  In the "Invader Web Quest" activity a jigsaw approach is used to develop a profile of individual invasive species.

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

All of the lessons include suggestions for formative assessment such as journal entries and 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 Good

The presentation that is developed and delivered by the class brings together all of the student-led research and outdoor investigations into one product that provides a great opportunity for students to teach and motivate their peers and local community members.

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 this resource is very Ontario specific it translates well to other regions because of the investigation of local habitats for invasive species.  This outdoor research also provides students with a meaningful opportunity to actually carry out a case study.

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 Good

Students are able to explore the topic of invasive species through a variety of activities that provide opportunities for dialogue, questioning and analysis of new information.  There is also an opportunity for a teacher to build on the classroom presentation aspect of the lesson through the initiation of student-led action projects.

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.