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Invasive Species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 5th Grade

This program consists of three 90-minute lessons:

1) Limiting Factors in Ecosystems,

2) The Impact of Invasive Species on a Model Elk Population,

3) Managing Invasive Species.

1) Limiting Factors in Ecosystems:

Learning Objectives: Students will learn that limiting factors, both abiotic and biotic, support biodiversity and maintain ecosystems in a stable state by preventing any one species from outcompeting other species in the community. Invasive species do not have limiting factors in the new ecosystem they are in, and are able to outcompete native species, reduce biodiversity, and destabilize the ecosystem.

Lesson Summary: Students will review ecosystem principles and test their familiarity with their local ecosystem by playing a game of Ecosystem Jeopardy. We will watch a 5-minute video to analyze 3 cases of invasive species reducing the biodiversity and stability of ecosystems. Students will use a model of their local ecosystem to predict the consequences of introducing two invasive plants.

Cross-cutting Concepts:  Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter

Disciplinary Core Ideas:

  • LS2.A-Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems: The food of almost any kind of animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs…organisms can survive only in environments in which their particular needs are met. A healthy ecosystem is one in which multiple species can meet their needs in a relatively stable web of life.  Newly introduced species can damage the balance of an ecosystem.
  • L2.B-Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems: Matter cycles between the air and soil and among plants, animals, and microbes as these organisms live and die. Organisms obtain gases and water from the environment and release waste matter back into the environment.

Practices of Science:  Developing and Using Models

Vocabulary: Ecosystem, Producer, Consumer, Decomposer, Carnivore, Herbivore, Omnivore, Predator, Prey, Competition, Biotic, Abiotic, Limiting Factor, Photosynthesis, Matter, Energy, Trophic level, Biodiversity, Stability, Native species, Invasive species, Organism, Scientific Model

2) The Impact of Invasive Species on a Model Elk Population:

Learning Objective: Students will learn how two invasive plant species may impact the survival, reproduction and health of elk in the GYE. They will practice the steps of scientific research as they collect and analyze data on a model elk population that is experiencing this invasion. They will draw conclusions from their data and predict how this could impact the GYE.

Lesson Summary: Students will research the impact of two invasive species on survival, reproduction, and diet health of elk in the GYE by collecting and analyzing data on a model elk population foraging in a habitat that has been invaded by spotted knapweed and cheatgrass. They will draw conclusions from their research and predict how these invasive species will impact the stability and biodiversity of the GYE.

Cross-cutting Concepts:  Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change, Cause and Effect

Disciplinary Core Ideas:  LS2.C -Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning and Resilience: When the environment changes in ways that affect a place’s physical characteristics, temperature, or availability of resources, some organisms survive and reproduce, others move to new locations, yet others move into the transformed environment, and some die.

Practices of Science:  Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking

Vocabulary: Scientific Research, Hypothesis, Data, Analyze, Conclusion, Scientific Model, Forage, Forb, Shrub, Energy, Diet Diversity, Line Plot, Line Graph

3) Managing Invasive Species:

Learning Objective:  Students will learn what makes certain plants invasive in a new ecosystem, the options available for controlling them, and how to determine if an invasive plant should be controlled, eradicated or prevented. As they research a local invasive plant and develop a management plan for it, they will learn to recognize invasive characteristics in plants, realize why these plants are so challenging to control, and understand why most of them will never be fully eradicated.

Lesson Summary:  Students will learn how invasive plants evade limiting factors in their new ecosystem and identify common characteristics shared by these plants. With a partner, they will research one invasive plant and identify the characteristics that make it invasive. They will attempt to create an Integrated Weed Management Plan for their plant and use distribution maps to decide if it should be controlled, eradicated, or prevented. As a class we will discuss how the distribution of an invasive species determines its priority to TCWP.

Cross-cutting Concepts:  Patterns, Structure and Function

Disciplinary Core Ideas:  LS1.A: Structure and Function

Practices of Science:  Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions; Obtaining, Evaluating and Communicating Information

Vocabulary: Taproot, Fibrous root, Rhizomatous root, Seed Dispersal, Viability, Palatability, Integrated Weed Management, Eradicate, Mechanical control, Chemical control, Biological control, Cultural Control, Herbicide, Revegetate, Distribution

Science Standards This Program Meets

5-LS1-1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structure and Processes

  • Grade: 5th Grade
  • Discipline: Life Science
Support an argument that plants get the materials they need for growth primarily from air and water.
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5-LS2-1 Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics

  • Grade: 5th Grade
  • Discipline: Life Science
Develop a model to describe the movement of matter among plants, animals, decomposers, and the environment.
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5-PS3-1 Energy

  • Grade: 5th Grade
  • Discipline: Physical Science
Use models to describe that energy in animals’ food (used for body repair, growth, motion, and to maintain body warmth) was once energy from the sun.
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About Teton County Weed & Pest District

TCWP has developed science education programs for grades 2, 3 and 5 that address NGSS while teaching students about invasive species and pests. Each program consists of 3 lessons that build on each other and involve students in practices of science as they learn Disciplinary Core Ideas in the Life Sciences framed in the real-world context of invasive species and pests. Program content follows a flow through the grade levels, starting with plant reproduction and seed dispersal in 2nd grade and ending with the impact of invasive species on ecosystems in 5th grade. Programs are available from Sept 1 – May 15 and are best scheduled at the beginning of the school year. All lessons are free of charge

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Who Teton County Weed and Pest District
What Science programs for grades 2, 3 and 5, including 3 lessons per grade level, offered by TCWP staff in classrooms, most materials provided by TCWP, programs address Disciplinary Core Ideas, Cross Cutting Concepts, and Practices of Science from NGSS while teaching students about the real environment issues around invasive species and pests.
When Sep 1 - May 15 each year
Where In your classroom
Why To meet mission of Teton County Weed & Pest and the Wyoming Alliance for Environmental Education while helping teachers address NGSS and giving elementary students access to hands-on science and exposing them to future career opportunities.