How to Teach Environment Changes with Invasive Species

Environment changes are sometimes caused by invasive species. In this project, kids take the role of ecosystem engineers. They read about problems and solutions involving three threatening organisms, analyze, and write opinion pieces with claims and evidence.

Ms. Sanchez Teaches Environment Changes with Invasive Species

Our favorite third grade teacher sat at the back table with her teaching partner. Smiling, she pulled up a file on her laptop.

“Hey,” said Mr. Jones, “you’re much less gloomy today. I thought we were tackling NGSS 3-LS4-4.”

“Yep, we are. But I found an amazing set of resources to address it! Before we begin, though, let’s review that life science standard:

Make a claim about the merit of a solution to a problem caused when the environment changes and the types of plants and animals that live there may change.

“Wow,” Mr. Jones said. “I can’t wait for you to show me how we’re going to achieve this!”

1. Learning About Types of Engineers

Ms. Sanchez turned her laptop so her partner could look on. “Obviously, this standard incorporates engineering design. Therefore, the first step is to explore types of engineers. Kids learn what engineers do and complete a worksheet.”

Before kids learn about environment changes and invasive species, they explore the role of an engineer.

2. Learning How to Control Invasive Species

“Second,” she continued, “they read about ways ecosystems engineers control invasive species. As an example, the one-page article explores the purple loosestrife. Kids find that engineers may use other organisms or poisons to control the invaders in an ecosystem. As an alternative, the pests may be moved.”

Kids read a passage to learn how environmental engineers control invasive species. The purple loosestrife is used as an example.

3. Evaluating Solutions to Environment Changes

“Now that kids have necessary background information, they’re ready to explore the zebra mussel. Short passages explain the problem and the solution. Since the students are new to engineering design, the criteria is laid out for them. The solution must solve the problem for plants, animals, and humans. Additionally, it must not cause additional problems.

“At this point, the teacher models how to evaluate the solution, as shown on this sample response.”

“I see,” said Mr. Jones, “all of this scaffolds learning. That way, students can tackle a difficult process bit by bit.”

“Exactly,” his teammate replied.

The teacher models the process for evaluating solutions to invasive species with criteria.

4. Communicating Opinions About Solutions

Ms. Sanchez scrolled to the next page. “Now the teacher models how to make a claim and support it with evidence. As you can see, the claim states an opinion about the solution. Furthermore, how well it met the criteria become the three pieces of evidence. At the end, kids write a conclusion.

“Once again, the teacher models the process.”

The teacher models how to organize ideas to communicate an opinion about a solution to environment changes.

5. Writing Paragraphs

“Finally, the teacher illustrates how to move from the organizer to a complete paragraph. Kids begin to understand how they will make a claim about the solution to an environment change with information about a specific invasive species.”

The teacher models writing an opinion paragraph.

6. Practicing with Another Invasive Species

Ms. Sanchez scrolled down more. “Next, the students evaluate another environment change. This time, it’s caused by the nutria, and invasive species in Maryland. Supported by the teacher, they analyze how the solution met the criteria, organize their claim and evidence, and write a paragraph.”

“Guided practice,” Mr. Jones commented.

His teaching partner nodded.

Students analyze another invasive species and its environment changes. Then they organize their opinions about the solution to the problem of the nutria - and write!

Kids Evaluate Environment Changes and Write About Invasive Species

“As the grand finale,” Ms. Sanchez said, “kids tackle the entire process for yet another invasive species: the prickly pear cactus. They read about the problem causing environment changes, as well as its solution. They they organize their thoughts and write.”

After kids have practices analyzing solutions to environment change, they read about the prickly pear cactus, evaluate the solution, and write independently.

Enjoy Teaching

“Ha! I never thought we’d find classroom resources to teach this tricky standard,” said Mr. Jones. “Not only does this set of activities meets the standard. It also integrates science, engineering design, and writing. Awesome!”

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