Invasive Species Council of British Columbia

From Here, From Away 

Grade: K to 12

Duration: 45 mins - 1.5 hours

Setting: Indoor/outdoor

Subject: Science

Physical Activity: Yes

Using movement, active decision-making, and group collaboration, students hypothesize and learn the differences between native species (From Here) and introduced species (From Away), and those that cause environmental harm (Invasive) and those that do not (Non-Invasive). 

By participating in this activity students will know and understand: 

  • The differences between a native, non-native, and invasive species. 
  • Some native and invasive species that are common to their area. 

This activity is based upon one of same name by Kim Fulton in Teaching About Invasive Species, A Green Teacher Publication, Edited by Tim Grant (2014).  

Inquiry Questions 
  • What are some differences between native, introduced, and invasive species?  
  • How do some organisms cause harm to species, habitats, and ecosystems?  
  • What invasive species are established in my area? 
BC Curriculum Links 

Science Big Ideas 

  • Plants and animals have observable features. (Grade K) 
  • Living things have features and behaviours that help them survive in their environment. (Grade 1) 
  • Living things have life cycles that are adapted to their environment. (Grade 2) 
  • Living things are diverse, can be grouped, and interact in their ecosystems. (Grade 3) 
  • All living things sense and respond to their environment. (Grade 4) 
  • Evolution by natural selection provides an explanation for the diversity and survival of living things. (Grade 7) 

Science Curricular Competencies 

Numerous Science Curricular Competencies are addressed for all grades, such as: 

  • Ask simple questions about familiar objects and events. (Grade K) 
  • Sort and classify data and information using drawings or provided tables. (Grades 1-4) 
  • Make observations aimed at identifying their own questions about the natural world. (Grades 7-8) 
  • Experience and interpret the local environment. (Grades K-12) 
  • Express and reflect personal/shared experiences of place. (Grades K-12) 
  • Pictures of native, non-native, and invasive plants and animals.  Recommended minimum is 15-20 pictures (more if you will do a sorting activity with teams; for older students).  Select species that are age-appropriate for your group.  
  • Start with choosing some of the 48 species in the From Here-From Away Species Cards in the Documents to Download section. 
  • Gather your own images from old calendars, magazines, photographs from your region, or field ID cards.   
  • Wondering what invasive and native species are common in your area? Help is an email away. Email Invasive-Wise Education at and we can provide you with resources and suggestions.  
  • 4 signs: “From Here”, “From Away”, “Harms” and “Doesn’t Harm”.  For younger students only use “From Here”, “From Away”.  
  • Outdoor field or large indoor area/gym 
Documents to Download 

For a general background on invasive species and their impacts, read Background on Invasive Species for Educators

Understanding the differences between native and invasive species is an important first step in getting to know the natural world around us.  By becoming more aware of what is ‘from here’, what is ‘from away’, and what species help to maintain a natural balance—or upset the balance—in an ecosystem, students develop a deeper understanding of the role that each species plays in its ecosystem.  By developing a greater awareness of the impacts of invasive species, students can take meaningful action to protect local areas from harmful invasive species and make a positive difference in their communities.  


There are many terms used to describe and categorize organisms that are ‘from here’ and ‘from away’.  Terms can help us to know and clearly communicate to others the characteristics of a species.  Below are some of the most important terms and their definitions relevant to this activity.  Remember that there are many subtleties and sometimes species don’t fit neatly into one particular category. But that can make for interesting discussions! 

Invasive species are non-native organisms that are ‘from away’- that is, they have been introduced, either intentionally or accidentally, into the environment from other areas.  Invasive species have high reproductive output and can spread easily and effectively into new areas.  Without their natural pathogens and predators, they are capable of moving aggressively into an area, and monopolizing resources such as light, nutrients, water, and space to the detriment of other species.  By definition, an invasive species is a non-native organism that causes harm to the environment, economy, and/or society.  

All invasive species are non-native (‘from away’), but not all non-native species are invasive. Non-native species, sometimes called exotic  alien, or introduced species are not invasive if they don’t spread and cause harm to native species and ecosystems.  For example, many of our agricultural crops, like wheat and tomatoes, are non-native but only survive with care from people.  Similarly, some animals, if introduced or let loose in BC, would not survive our climate, or would not spread and cause negative impacts to the environment.   

Native species are organisms that are ‘from here’- that is, they have evolved in a location over many (ie. thousands) years. They are adapted to the particular habitat and climate of the region and are a natural part of the food web, including having predators and pathogens.  In North America, native species are considered those that were found in that region before the time of European colonization.   

Just as some non-native species are not invasive, some native species may cause harm to the environment, economy or society.  These may be termed weeds (for plants) or pests (for animals).  For example, the mountain pine beetle that has impacted or killed more than 18 million hectares of pine forest in BC, is a wood-boring insect that is native to BC.  There was a massive outbreak of the beetle for ~15 years beginning in the 1990s due to numerous factors, including several years of warm winter temperatures.  Normally, cold winters would keep populations in check by killing off many beetle eggs and larvae.  Although these native insects have invasive qualities, they are not considered an invasive species because, by definition, an invasive species is non-native and is ‘from away’.   

Sometimes people use the term  weed  interchangeably with invasive species. But there are slight differences.  A weed is a plant whose presence is undesirable to people in a particular time and place, such as in a garden or lawn.  The term ‘weed’ includes a statement about values, not necessarily environmental impacts.  A weed could be either native or non-native and isn’t always invasive. For example, a native willow seedling growing in your garden is a weed if you don’t want it there.  In contrast, a Noxious Weed is an invasive plant that is regulated by the BC Weed Control Act. This Act imposes a duty upon land occupiers to control these provincially designated, aggressive and destructive species. 


Part 1: Set-up and Preparation  

  1. Gather your pictures cards of native, non-native, and invasive plants and animals.  Include some easy ones and some that may be more challenging for the level of your group. For younger students, focus on just the two categories of From Here/From Away and some familiar animals and plants, such as From Here: salmon, black bear, Douglas fir, huckleberries and From Away: lions, giraffes, palm trees, mangos.  Some invasive species that even younger students may be familiar with include Eastern grey squirrel, European rabbit, English Ivy, Burdock, Himalayan blackberry, and Oxeye daisy. 
  2. Prior to playing the game, do a group brainstorm to gauge the level of knowledge of the students. List some native plants and animals on the board and some non-native species and discuss the concept of invasive species (non-native organisms that cause harm to the environment or society).  Identify several invasive species common to your area.  Display the pictures and discuss if the group has seen / knows about them. 
  3. Find an appropriate site to play the game where the ground is level, without tripping hazards, and at least 10 meters wide. 
  4. Put up signs in two areas about 10 meters apart:  From Here and From Away.  Tell the group that you are going to hold up a picture of a plant or animal, and they are to run safely to the From Here sign if it is a native plant or animal, or to the From Away sign if it is an introduced plant or animal.  Review definitions and give examples of each.  With older students, explain some related terms as well, such as “native”, “indigenous,” and “from within its normal range” all mean “from here”. “Exotic”,” introduced,” “from outside its normal range”, “alien”, and “invasive” all mean “from away”. 

Part 2: Play 

  1. Hold up a picture of a plant or animal and say its name. Give the students time to think then say “go”. The students should run to the sign which indicates From Here or From Away. Tell them to make up their own mind and not be swayed by the group. The group is not always right!  If everyone is stumped, you could give a clue that provides more information on that species. (If using the From Here-From Away Species Cards you could read off a fun fact about the organism that is printed on the back of the card.) 
  • Note: This ‘running’ aspect of the game can be modified to any movement to suit student mobility and the size of your space. Mix up the movement as the game goes to include hopping, crawling, crab walk, yoga positions, etc.  
  1. After the dust has settled, discuss whether the plant or animal was ‘from here’ or ‘from away’. Repeat the process for approximately fifteen to twenty plants and animals. You will probably find that the students are more aware and knowledgeable of animals than of plants. It is always worth reminding them of the importance of plants in the ecosystem! 

Part 3: Sort and Discuss 

  1. After the running game, have the students work as a group to categorize the pictures of plants and animals into the two groups: From Here (native) and From Away (introduced). Lay the pictures out on the ground under the two signs.   
  2. Discuss the terms “invasive” and “non-invasive” and how some organisms can cause harm to the environment.  For younger students, see if they can identify any of the species that are invasive.   
  3. For older students, gather all four signs (From Here, From Away, Harms, Doesn’t Harm) and arrange them into the configuration shown below.  Have students work together to sort the species cards into the four categories.   
  • Remember that only species that are ‘From Away’ are correctly termed an invasive species.  Organisms that are native (‘From Here’) and harm the environment may have invasive properties, but they are more precisely termed pests or weeds. (See Background Information for more details.) 
DOES NOT HARM  the environment or upset the balance of species, habitats, ecosystems native, indigenous, from within its normal range exotic, introduced, non-native, alien, from outside its normal range 
HARMS  the environment or upsets the balance of species, habitats, ecosystems pest, weed  invasive 
  1. Encourage discussion and ask the students if they have seen any of the plants and animals in the pictures. 
Adaptations for Younger and Older Students 
  • Younger students:  Instead of using photographs to categorize, gather an assortment of stuffed animals (black bear, monkey, whale, giraffe, elephant, squirrel, tiger, etc.) to play the game.  Make sure to have enough stuffies for each student so that they can ‘adopt’ one for the day and learn about its habitat and if it is ‘from here’ or ‘from away’.   
  • Older Students:  Instead of playing a running game, divide the class up into 2-4 teams.  Create a labelled 2×2 sorting grid, as shown above, for each team (e.g. on a posterboard or across 4 desks pushed together where each desk represents one of the quadrants).  Give each team a set of species cards that includes representation of at least one species in each of the quadrants.  Give the teams 10-15 minutes to work together to sort the pictures.  The winning team is the one that got the most right (and who worked well together/cooperated the most!).  Discuss the tricky ones that were hard to categorize and any that were surprising.   
Related Activities 
Share with us!  

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

  • Have each student choose an invasive species from your region to research.  Where are they native to and how did they get here? What are people doing to manage them and prevent their spread?  
  • Go outdoors to look for examples of native, non-native, and invasive species. Use identification field guides or apps, such as SEEK or iNaturalist, to help identify species. 
  • Create your own field guide to common species in your region using sketches, photographs, or pressed plant specimens.  Include a variety of species that are from here (native), from away (non-native), harm to the environment (invasive or pests and weeds), or don’t harm the environment (introduced/exotic).