Why We Care About Invasive Species

Grade: 4 to 7

Duration: 45 minutes - 1.5 hours

Setting: Indoor

Subject: Science

Physical Activity: Yes

In this activity students are introduced to the issues of invasive species and their impacts by participating in discussions, completing a myth-busting quiz, watching short videos, and playing a fast-paced game.

By participating in this activity students will know and understand:

  • the difference between invasive, non-native, and native species
  • some common invasive species and their impacts
  • that invasive species have a negative impact on community and environment
  • that we can all play a part to help keep habitats and communities healthy

This activity is part of the Lesson “A Beginner’s Guide to Invasive Species” where students engage in discussion, analysis, investigations, and interactive indoor and outdoor games to spark their curiosity, learn about the issue of invasive species and how they impact us all.


Related Activities
INQUIRY QUESTIONS
  • What is an invasive species?
  • What is the difference between an invasive species and a native species?
  • Why should I care about invasive species?
  • What are some impacts of invasive species?
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)

Science Curricular Competencies (Grades 4-7)  

  • Demonstrate curiosity about a scientific topic or problem of personal interest
  • Explore and pose questions that lead to investigations
  • Experience and interpret the local environment
  • Express and reflect on personal, shared or others’ experience of place
MATERIALS
  • Paper, pen or marker, and scissors (Part 3)
documents TO DOWNLOAD
BACKGROUND

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

Definitions and terminology

Invasive species are non-native organisms that have been introduced, either intentionally or accidentally, into the environment from other 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. Invasive species threaten natural ecosystem functions, species biodiversity, food security, human health and safety, and economic development.

Native species are species that reached their location without assistance from people. In Canada and the United States, native species are those that already existed here at the time of European colonization.

Non-native species, sometimes called exotic or alien species, are those that have been introduced to a new location, intentionally or unintentionally, to which they did not evolve and are not typically found.  Some non-native species may be invasive, spreading and causing negative environmental, economic, or social impacts, while others may not survive without being cared for by people.

A weed is any plant whose presence is undesirable to people in a particular time and place, such as in a garden or lawn. A weed could be either native or non-native. For example, a native willow seedling growing in your garden is a weed if you don’t want it there. A weed is not the same as an invasive plant. An invasive plant is a plant that when transplanted from its native habitat, grows aggressively, outcompeting and displacing desired vegetation.

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.

PROCEDURE

Part 1. Know-Wonder-Learn

  1. Write the following questions on the board as a jumping off point for inquiry and discussion: What is an invasive species? Why should we care about them? 
  2. Split students into pairs or small groups to discuss the questions. Based on their sharing, create a class KWL (Know-Wonder-Learn) chart about invasive species.  Post it somewhere visible where it can be referred to and modified throughout your learning about invasive species and healthy habitats. 
  3. Give the students a True/False Quiz or use Kahoot, to get a sense of what they already know and to bust some myths about invasive species. Here is a Kahoot on Invasive Species that you could use: Invasive Species Kahoot!
  4. Invasive Species 101: Present some background information on invasive species by showing the webpage What’s the big deal? – Invasive Species Council of British Columbia (bcinvasives.ca) and the following short video: Invaders! Invasive Species in BC, Province of BC (1:42)
Invaders! Invasive Species in BC, Province of BC (1:42)

As students watch the video have them think about the following two questions and be able to give an example for each.

  1. Name a problem caused by invasive species
  2. What can we do about it?  Discuss as a group or Think-Pair-Share.

Part 2.  Why Should We Care?
Students learn about how invasive species threaten some of their favourite things.

  1. As a class, brainstorm a list of students’ favourite foods, drinks, and outdoor activities and write them on the board. 
  2. Download the document Why We Care – Examples.  Based on this information, cross out items on the students’ list that are or could be affected by invasive species.  Suggest some of the examples on the download if they haven’t been listed by the students. For example, ask “Does anyone like Macaroni and Cheese?”, then add it to the list.
  3. Tell the students why these foods/drinks/activities are crossed off. Share that there are some invasive species that threaten some of their favourite things.  Give them details on the species and their impacts. Discuss the importance of a variety of foods and activities in our lives, for health and enjoyment. You may love strawberries but what if that was the only fruit available?
  4. Discuss how students feel about invasive species now that they have this new information.  Remind them that there are many people working to make sure that the things that we love are protected and that each of us can all play our part to prevent the spread of invasive species!
  5. Look up some of the invasive species mentioned in this activity. What do they look like? How did they get here and how do they spread?  See the Additional Resources section for some useful sources of information. 

Part 3: Word Smack Game
Invasive, Non-native, Alien, Native, Exotic, Weeds—What do all of these words mean?  Learn the definitions of these terms and examples of each by playing a fast-paced card game.

Discussion and preparation

  1. Introduce terms. (See Background section).
  2. Have students discuss and share definitions and examples of each.
  3. Refine definitions and write them on the board.

Get Ready to Play

  1. Divide the students into small groups of 2-3.
  2. Give each group 5 index card-sized pieces of paper, or 1 large piece of paper to cut into smaller pieces.  4 pieces will be used for the terms and 1 piece for score keeping.
  3. On each piece of paper, have students write one of the following, in large, bold print (1 term per piece of paper):
    -Non-Native/Exotic
    -Native
    -Invasive
    -Weed

Play the Game!

  1. The teacher reads out a mystery creature scenario from the Word Smack Game Questions
  2. In their small groups, students listen to the teacher then race to smack the appropriate card. 
  3. The teacher states the correct answer and the first person to have smacked the correct card gets a point.  (In the case of a tie, do rock-paper-scissors to determine the winner.) Challenge version: Anyone who smacks the incorrect answers gets a point deducted from their score.
  4. Continue to play the game as time permits and based on student interest. Feel free to make up your own questions!
  5. Optional: Stop the game after a certain amount of time to see who has the most points.  Choose the highest scoring 2 or 3 students for the Word Smack Championship Finals!
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
  • Look at photos of local plant and animal species and discuss if they are invasive, non-native, native or weeds. Play Word Smack using the photographs!  Make a digital or paper collage of images for each of the terms.
  • 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.
  • Learn more about the invasive species found in your community and what people are doing to take action to prevent their spread.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Websites:

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.