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Students Take Action Against Invasive Species

Originally appears in the Winter 2017 issue

EVERY FRIDAY, my 7th graders and I spend the last few minutes talking about what they learned this week, what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they look forward to learning next. We also talk about exciting weekend plans. As a science teacher I always hope students say they are going to do something science related such as gardening, camping, or going to the arboretum. Yet, sadly many of their plans involve shopping, organized sports, and television. I sometimes wonder what ever happened to going outside and getting dirty. Two things are for certain: the way we learn about the environment, and how we experience nature, have both shifted.

Since students are not spending as much time in nature as in past generations, they often do not realize what is happening outside their door. Most are not aware of key environmental concerns, such as the growing threat of invasive species. None of my students were familiar with the concept of invasive species. They were familiar with the terms “invasive” and “species” but not in the context of science, nor when the two words were combined. To address the growing concern about invasive species, I decided to create a unit in which students would learn about the topic, educate others, create an action plan, and then implement it.

This two-and-a-half-week unit is designed to teach middle school students about the invasive species in their area. You are welcome to change aspects of the unit to suit the neighborhoods of your students. All readings, informational packets, and suggested projects can be differentiated as needed. Having taught this unit multiple times, I have revised it to suit the needs of new discoveries and exploration for middle school students. Give it a go with your students!

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Jennifer Brooks is a Junior High science teacher in Woodridge, IL. She is also a graduate student in Miami University’s/Brookfield Zoo’s Advanced Inquiry Program. Contact her at