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Native – Alien – Invasive

Name of Corresponding Unit Plan:: Invasive Species

Grade Level: 6-12

Common Core Standards
WH/S.4. Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context.

WH/S.2. Write informative/explanatory texts.

Content Areas: Science, Language Arts

Recommended Length/Duration: 45-60 minutes

Learning Goals:
Students will differentiate between native, alien, and invasive organisms. Students will recognize the impact native, alien, and invasive organisms can have on an ecosystem.

Description/Sequence:

  1. Initiate the lesson by having students list all the plants and animals they can that live in or on their home property. Since students may live in a variety of home settings, the teacher needs to help students who live in apartments to be more expansive and those living on farms to narrow their focus. Encourage students to include as many specific plants, mammals, birds, insects, etc. as possible. (This could be done in advance as homework)
  2. Using the lesson worksheet, define the terms native, alien, and invasive. Discuss some of the ways that alien species invade an ecosystem and the positive affects they may have, or how they may become an invasive species.
  3. Have students categorize the organisms from their home list as native, alien, or invasive.
  4. Have students share their lists as a class or in small groups. Clarify any disagreements about how organisms were classified.
  5. Discuss how local ecosystems are impacted by alien and invasive species. Guiding questions might include:
    • What are some desirable alien species?
    • How have alien and invasive species impacted on native species?
    • Do alien and invasive species have any positive impacts on native species?
    • Are there any alien species that had positive impacts, but then became invasive?
    • Are there any invasive species that have become desirable?
    • What role have people played in spreading alien and invasive species? Are there any alien or invasive species that have not been spread by human activity?
    • How are people an alien or invasive species in the natural ecosystem?
  6. Assign or have students choose one of these questions as the topic for a short essay.

Assessments: Student worksheets and essays can be evaluated for completeness and accuracy.

Materials/Resources: Native – Alien – Invasive Worksheet (pdf)

Special Considerations: Students living in rural settings will need to limit their lists, while students living in more urban environments may need to expand their lists of home organisms.

Extensions: Students may want to watch the film The Botany of Desire and explore the role humans have played in promoting some organisms over others.

The question as to whether human beings are part of or a destroyer of natural ecosystems is a popular notion in both science and science fiction. This might be an appealing debate topic with teams taking each side of the resolution: "Human beings are an invasive species."