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What's Up in the Environment?
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Class Projects  Invasive Species


Invasive plants or animals can have a profound impact on ecosystems. When allowed to proliferate, they can kill off indigenous plant or animal life, causing whole natural habitats to change.

In this project, students identify an invasive species and its impact on local ecosystems by doing research and performing a quadrant study. Once students have assessed the health of their local ecosystem, they will work with environmentalists to devise a plan that will alleviate the invasive species problem in their area.

This project incorporates elements of the scientific method.

Grade level
Middle school, but can be adapted to suit other grades

Time allotment
Up to 1 semester

Subject matter
Main focus on environmental science, with language arts and social studies connections

Learning objectives
Students will:
  • Gain an understanding of the scientific method and use elements of it in some steps of the project.

  • Research and discover which non-native plants exist locally.

  • Study and analyze these invasive species' effect on the environment.

  • Plan, publicize, and execute a project to help remove harmful invasives.
  • North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE)
    Excellence in Environmental Education: Guidelines for Learning
    Strand 1—Questioning and Analysis Skills (Guidelines A, B, C, D, E, G); Strand 2.2—The Living Environment (A, C, D); Strand 2.3—Humans and Their Societies (C, E); Strand 2.4—Environment and Society (A, B); Strand 3.1—Skills for Analyzing and Investigating Environmental Issues (A, B, C, D); Strand 3.2—Decision-Making and Citizenship Skills (A, B, C, D); Strand 4—Personal and Civic Responsibility (B, C).

  • Technology Foundation Standards for Students
    Standard 1: Basic operations and concepts; Standard 3: Technology productivity tools; Standard 4: Technology communications tools; Standard 5: Technology research tools.
Students will reflect on the results of their project by doing one of the following options: make a scrapbook; create a video or a Web page about their experiences to share with others; or form groups to write a series of illustrated articles. Students will also create and distribute an invasive species eradication pamphlet to local government officials, media, schools, and environmental groups.

Computer resources
  • Modem: 56.6 Kbps or faster
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 4.0 or above or Internet Explorer 4.0 or above
  • Macintosh computer: System 8.1 or above and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • Personal computer (Pentium II 350 MHz or Celeron 600 MHz) running Windows® 95 or higher and at least 32 MB of RAM
  • RealPlayer plug-in. Download for free at
Materials needed
  • WHAT'S UP IN THE ENVIRONMENT video (optional)
  • Excel or chart and graph paper
  • PowerPoint or Hyperstudio (optional)
  • Access to the Internet on at least one computer (optional)
  • Paper and pencils to create diagrams
  • Instructions for a quadrant study (see Web site for instructions)
  • Field guide (either purchase guides, or download them for free from the Web)
  • For data collection/field documentation: video camera; camera; tape recorder; or paper and colored pencils
  • To collect field samples: spades, plastic bags, clippers
  • For the pamphlet: either word processing, graphics, or presentation software such as Word Perfect and Quark, or PowerPoint; or drawing paper and markers
Online resources

Teacher tool Web sites

Bookmark these Web sites for student research

  • Invasive Species
    This site provides links to Federal efforts on invasive species. Students can link to sites that tell about the impact of invasive species and the Federal government's response. They can also read select species profiles and find links to agencies and organizations dealing with invasive species issues.

  • Plants Database
    Students can use this site to search for information using specific plant names. They can also read state reports about invasive plants. Scroll down the page to 'Plants Downloads' for downloadable field guides.

  • Wildland Invasive Species Program
    Click on the interactive map to find the invasive species in your community. Then, surf the site to find out more information on invasive species and what can be done to control them.

  • Studying a Real Prairie student/data.shtml
    In order to do this project, students will need to do a quadrant study. This site provides information on how to do a quadrant study and explains how a class used a quadrant study to analyze a prairie.

  • Ecoworld Home.cfm
    This site has information about plants, including a searchable plant database ( search.cfm).

  • National Wildlife Federation Web Site
    This site gives useful information about how to write fact sheets and organize community groups to take action.
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