Design an Invasive All-Star

Grade: 4 to 7

Duration: 3 or more hours

Setting: Indoor

Subjects: Arts Education, Language Arts, Science

Physical Activity: No

After learning about the adaptations that have contributed to the spread of some invasive species, students design their own, imaginary invasive “All-Star” and share it in a short Exclusive! video interview. 

This activity is part of the Lesson “The Invasive Big League and the Away Team Advantage”, where students engage in discussion, analysis, investigations, and interactive indoor and outdoor games to discover the adaptations that give invasive species a competitive edge.  Students also explore ways that people may help correct the imbalance posed by invasive species and “help our home team”. This lesson includes four activities:

Related activities
Inquiry Questions
  • Why are invasive species so successful at taking over a new place?
  • Why aren’t invasive species invasive in the place where they are from originally?
  • What adaptations (attributes, such as body systems, internal systems, or behaviours) do invasive species have that contribute to their success?
BC Curriculum Links

Science Big Ideas

  • All living things sense and respond to their environment (Grade 4)
  • Multicellular organisms have organ systems that enable them to survive and interact within their environment (Grade 5)
  • Multicellular organisms rely on internal systems to survive, reproduce, and interact with their environment (Grade 6)
  • Evolution by natural selection provides an explanation for the diversity and survival of living things (Grade 7)
Materials
  • Writing utensils and colours: pencils, pencil crayons
Documents to Download
Background

Invasive species are those that are not native to a region and whose introduction and spread harms native species, the economy, or human health and society. Not all introduced species are invasive. Most species that are introduced do not survive or do not spread and cause detrimental impacts. For example, tulips and tomatoes may thrive if they are tended in gardens, but they don’t spread beyond the garden or take over natural areas, the way that other plants, such as English ivy or Japanese knotweed, do. For more information on invasive species and their impacts, read Background on Invasive Species for Educators.

Species that are invasive in one region typically don’t cause the same problems in their native range, where they have evolved over millennia with predators, parasites, and pathogens that keep their numbers in check. As people and our goods move around the world, we move organisms as well, intentionally and unintentionally; for example on our vehicles, in soil, in shipping containers, and on our shoes and clothing. Most of these introduced species won’t survive in a new environment. But in some cases, an organism might not only survive, but it could thrive. If the environmental conditions – such as temperature, sunlight, water, and soil —were just right, and food was available, the organism might survive. And would the introduced species have any predators or diseases in its new environment?  Possibly not. So, if this newly introduced species was able to reproduce, it might even spread and take over.

Let’s imagine that the species in their native habitat, such as those animals and plants living in a pond or a forest, are a sports team. Each one plays its own important role on the team. They’re our Home Team. The species that grew up here play on that team, as did their great-great-great-great-great-great (and so on, millions of times over) – grandparents. Sometimes they won a bit and sometimes they lost by a few, but they kept playing on a level playing field. But then a new team of invasive species arrives from “Away”. The Away Team has a big advantage that could drastically change or even eliminate the Home Team if we don’t intervene.

Procedure

Part 1. Explore Adaptations: The Away Team ‘Stats’

Introduce the background information to this lesson. If you made a Know/Wonder/Learn chart in your studies on invasive species, add to it with respect to this topic.

  • Ask students to give examples of adaptations of animals or plants that help them to survive in their environment. Build on any learning connected to the BC Science curriculum that students are working on (such as how living things sense and respond to their environment, organ or body systems, and/or how these systems have evolved).
  • Ask students to hypothesize what would happen if a new species were introduced to a habitat? Would it survive and spread? Why or why not? 
  • Watch and discuss one or two short videos to introduce the concepts of how an invasive species can take over in a new environment.
  • Distribute the Away Team Advantage- Adaptation Chart. Discuss the examples in the chart. Learn about other invasive species as case studies. Add to the chart, focusing on the variety of adaptations that invasive species have that contribute to their “Away Team Advantage”. Look at photos of or watch videos on these and other invasive species, focusing on their adaptations. See the Resources section for suggestions.

Part 2. Design Your Invasive All-Star!

  1. Divide the class up into small groups of 2-3 students. Tell them they are going to create an imaginary species that has adaptations that will allow it to spread and take over widely in its new environment in BC.
  2. Give each group a copy of the Invasive All-Star Mind Map to fill out with information on their Invasive All-Star and its adaptations. Things to include:
    • The type of organism (animal, plant, fungus, etc)
    • Where is it native to? (part of the world, habitat)
    • Where has your Invasive All-Star arrived? (Location and habitat, for example, freshwater lakes and ponds in the Lower Mainland.).
    • How did it arrive there?
    • What adaptations does your Invasive All-Star have that allow it to thrive and spread in its environment?  Refer to the adaptations chart for some ideas and use your imagination. Possibilities of things to include:
      • Its place in the food chain (what eats it, what it eats)
      • Its life cycle, including reproduction and dispersal
      • Its behaviours (such as how it interacts with other species)
      • Its physical features, such as what it looks like (size, camouflage, defense structures such as claws, spines, etc.)
  3. How is it impacting people or native species and habitats? 
  4. Stewardship/prevention message. How can people identify the species? Where should they report it if they see it? What can they do to make sure it doesn’t spread even more?
  5. Optional- make a drawing of your Invasive All-Star
  6. Finally, name your organism! Give it a common and scientific name.

Part 3: Exclusive! Invasive All-Star Interviews

Students share their Invasive All-Stars by creating an Exclusive Interview.

  • Each student in the group selects their role: the invasive species or the interviewer. If there are three students in the group, another role could be a native species.
  • Students write out their conversation/script, including the questions that the interviewer asks and the responses by the invasive and/or native species. Be creative! Make sure to give the character a name and convey the information about the species that students created using the Invasive All-Star Mind Map.  
  • Students present their Exclusive! Interviews as skits or videos.
Share with us!

We’d love to have your feedback and see photos of your students’ learning and participation in this activity. Send to education.lead@bcinvasives.ca for the opportunity to win resources and have your class have a virtual visit with an invasive species expert!

Extensions

Go outdoors and look closely at some invasive species. What adaptations do they have that helps them to thrive and take over in their environment? 

Additional Resources

Useful links for case studies of invasive species.

Websites

Videos (Most appropriate for Grades 6-7)

Books for Youth

  • Von Tol, Alex. Aliens Among Us: Invasive Animals and Plants in British Columbia. 2015. Royal BC Museum, Victoria, BC.
  • Wilcox, Merrie-Ellen. Nature Out of Balance: How Invasive Species are Changing the Planet. 2021. Orca Book Publishers, Victoria, BC.