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Invasive Species

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan: Invasive Species

Grade Level: 6-12

Common Core Standards
WH/S.7. Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question or solve a problem.

Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; trace the text's explanation or depiction of a complex process, phenomenon, or concept; provide an accurate summary of the text.

Write informative/explanatory texts.

Content Areas: Science, Language Arts

Recommended Length/Duration: Two or three 45-60 minute periods.

Learning Goals: Students will identify and describe an example of an invasive species. Students will use a variety of reference materials and summarize their findings into a short report.


  1. Initiate the discussion by asking the question, "What does the word invasive mean?" Guide the discussion so that the key ideas of "alien or foreign" and "harm" come into the conversation. Settle on a definition close to, "An organism that is not native to an ecosystem that causes environmental harm."
  2. Introduce the task: to develop a data base of common invasive species affecting North America.
  3. Present students with a list of possible topics. Determine if students will work individually or in groups. Assign, or have students choose, a topic they are interested in researching. The list might include:

    Whirling Disease (Myxobolus cerebralis)
    Mediterranean Clone of Caulerpa (Caulerpa taxifolia)
    Seed Plants
    Brazilian Waterweed (Egeria densa)
    Common Reed (Phragmites australis)
    Eurasian Water-milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum)
    Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)
    Giant Reed (Arundo donax)
    Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta)
    Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata)
    Melaleuca (Melaleuca quinquenervia)
    Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
    Water Chestnut (Trapa natans)
    Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
    European Green Crab (Carcinus maenas)
    Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)
    Alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus)
    Asian Swamp Eel (Monopterus albus)
    Eurasian Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus)
    Lionfish (Pterois volitans)
    Northern Snakehead (Channa argus)
    Sea Lamprey (Petromyzon marinus)
    North American Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)
    Nutria (Myocastor coypus)

  4. Discuss research resources that are available to them (e.g. reference books, periodicals, internet articles).
  5. Have students use the Invasive Species worksheet to help organize their findings. These will be consolidated into a short report.
  6. When reports are completed, have them shared with the class. Discuss the similarities and unique qualities of different species.
  7. If desirable, have students build a computer database for future reference.

Assessments: Use the provided or another research assessment rubric.

Materials/Resources: Invasive Species research worksheet (pdf)

A good initial resource is available from the National Ocean Service:

Special Considerations: It may be helpful to group weaker students with stronger students.

Extension: Students may be interested to learn about North American species that are considered invasive in other parts of the world.