Back to the Teacher Pages News | Resources | Calendar | Teaching Activities | EEK! Home


Identifying Alien Invaders

Objectives: Students will: 1) identify native and exotic plant and animal species through observation and research; 2) identify the effects of introduced species on ecosystems.

Grades: 4-8

Subjects: science

Materials: writing materials, field guides, reference material (newspaper articles, Web sites, natural resource agency material).

Background: Alien invaders, also known as non-native or exotic species are those plants or animals that have been brought into a new area. Examples in Wisconsin are purple loosestrife, garlic mustard, gypsy moth, and zebra mussels. While species often move from one place to another over time, natural land barriers have prevented indiscriminate movement. Humans have changed these barriers. For example, organisms and seeds can be transported in a ship's ballast water, on clothing, and in cars or on boats as we move from one place to another. In some cases, species are introduced on purpose. Purple loosestrife was brought to the United States from Europe in the 1800s for use as a landscape plant.

Non-native species tend to out-compete native species for resources. They lack natural predators and parasites to control them since they didn't evolve in these new areas.

The main objectives of this activity are for students to identify non-native plant and animal species and to examine the positive and negative effects of their presence.


  1. Identify non-native species found in your community. You can find information on the Alien Invaders pages of EEK!, on the Department of Natural Resources Invasive Species Web page, in field guides, the newspaper and other reference material.

  2. Working in small groups, students should prepare reports on one of the invasive species they've identified. If possible students should try to find the invasive species in the field. Their reports should answer how the species got to Wisconsin, and tell what positive and negative impacts the species has had on the environment. They should also find out what is being done to control non-native species. Are there any opportunities for students to get involved in control projects?

  3. When they've finished their research and report, they should share their reports with the rest of the class, including what, if anything, they can do to help control non-natives.

Back to the Teacher Pages News | Resources | Calendar | Teaching Activities | EEK! Home
Workshop and Events Calendar Teaching Activities Educational Resources What's New for Teachers Back to the Teacher Pages Index