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Distinguishing Native From Invasive Phragmites strains

Grade Level: 6-8

Time Frame: 40-45 minutes

Introduction to Lesson:

In this lesson students will be learning about what a species is.  They will also be learning about native species and invasive species.  The students will first learn the definitions of species and strains within biology, and what it means to say that a species or strain is native or invasive.  During the PowerPoint, students will examine the differences between native and invasive Phragmites and will see that there can a BIG difference even between different strains within the same species.  Students will use their knowledge from the PowerPoint to compare and contrast native and invasive Phragmites.  This is a fun exercise for the students to get involved with because they are going to be discovering the differences.  The students will feel as though they are in control, even though they are really being guided by you the teacher!

New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards


Strand B: Diversity and Biological Evolution

Cumulative Progress Indicator 2: Discuss how changing environmental conditions can result in evolution or extinction of a species

STANDARD 5.10 (Environmental Studies) All students will develop an understanding of the environment as a system of interdependent components affected by human activity and natural phenomena.

STANDARD 3.1 (Reading) All students will understand and apply the knowledge of sounds, letters, and words in written English to become independent and fluent readers, and will read a variety of materials and texts with fluency and comprehension.

H. Inquiry and Research

·          Summarize and organize information by taking notes, outlining ideas, and/or making charts.

STANDARD 3.2 (Writing) All students will write in clear, concise, organized language that varies in content and form for different audiences and purposes.

A. Writing as a Process (prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, postwriting)

·          Write informational compositions of several paragraphs that engage the interest of the reader, state a clear purpose, develop the topic, and conclude with a detailed summary.

·          Use strategies such as graphic organizers and outlines to elaborate and organize ideas for writing

·          Understand and apply the elements of a scoring rubric to improve and evaluate writing.

·          Reflect on own writing, noting strengths and setting goals for improvement.

C. Mechanics, Spelling, and Handwriting

·          Use Standard English conventions in all writing, such as sentence structure, grammar and usage, punctuation, capitalization, spelling, handwriting.

·          Use a variety of sentence types and syntax, including independent and dependent clauses and prepositional and adverbial phrases, to connect ideas and craft writing in an interesting and grammatically correct way.

·          Use knowledge of English grammar and usage to express ideas effectively.

·          Use correct capitalization and punctuation, including commas and colons, throughout writing.

·          Use knowledge of roots, prefixes, suffixes, and English spelling patterns to spell words correctly in writing.

·          Edit writing for correct grammar usage, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.

·          Use a variety of materials, such as a dictionary, grammar reference, and/or internet/software resources to edit written work.

·          Write legibly in manuscript or cursive to meet district standards.

STANDARD 9.2 (Consumer, Family, and Life Skills) All students will demonstrate critical life skills in order to be functional members of society.

A. Critical Thinking

·          Communicate, analyze data, apply technology, and problem solve.

C. Interpersonal Communication

·          Demonstrate respect and flexibility in interpersonal and group situations.

·          Organize thoughts to reflect logical thinking and speaking.

·          Work cooperatively with others to solve a problem.

·          Demonstrate appropriate social skills within group activities.

·          Practice the skills necessary to avoid physical and verbal confrontation in individual and group settings.

·          Participate as a member of a team and contribute to group effort



After completing the activities associated with this class, students will be able to explain the difference between a species and a strain (haplotype). 


Students will also compare and contrast similarities and  differences between native and invasive Phragmites using a graphic organizer to guide writing of a brief essay on this topic. 

Materials and Resources:


       Marsh maps from previous lesson (pre and post invasion)


1.    PowerPoint presentation  (same file in pdf format) to show what Phragmites is


      Student worksheet to accompany introductory powerpoint (word format;  pdf format)   or if preferred, teachers can use this Graphic Organizer


        Phragmites stalks collected from your neighborhood (optional)


       Compare and Contrast Rubric

Anticipatory Set:

 Teacher will ask students (any guesses are good):

1.      Do they know what a species is? (Students may not know.  If they don’t, tell them not to worry.  That’s what we will be learning today)

2.      Do they know what native means?  

3.      Do they know what invasive means? (Again, students may not know, and if they don’t, tell them not to worry.  That’s what we will be learning today.)

Sequence Instruction:

1.     Teacher will give PowerPoint presentation comparing Native and Invasive Phragmites strains (20 minutes)

·        In the PowerPoint students will be encouraged to use their own powers of observation to come to their own conclusion on what the differences are between native and invasive strains of Phragmites by looking at the pictures in the PowerPoint.

·        Teacher will know the answers and will GUIDE the students to the correct answers before clicking the button to advance the slide with the answers provided.

·        Teacher can also use the marsh map that was used in a the math (quadrat) lesson plan to remind students of the differences in a marsh before Phragmites invades, after Phragmites invades, and the different impacts that invasive Phragmites has in each marsh type.

2.     The students will take notes during the PowerPoint lesson, especially on the major differences between native and invasive species.

3.     The students will be given the work sheet and / or the two graphic organizers to complete (5-10 minutes).

·        Students should use the notes that they took in class to organize the information about the native and invasive strains of Phragmites into each of the graphic organizers provided.

·        To complete the graphic organizer, students should pick what they think are the six most important differences between native and invasive strains (any six they want, no right or wrong answers here, just what they feel are the most important differences).  One graphic organizer will be to write the important information on native Phragmites.  The other graphic organizer will be to write the same information on invasive Phragmites.  (e.g. one “spoke” of the organizer “wheel” could be used to record the relative height of the two strains, the next could be used to record leaf color, density, stem color etc.).  Students should be reminded to use the same spoke of each organizer for the same quality to enhance comparison between the two

·        Students should complete this organizer on their own to understand the important differences between the two strains of Phragmites.

4.     Students will then use their graphic organizer to complete an essay on the important differences between the different strains Phragmites (10 minutes) 

5.     Students will discuss with the teacher why it is that two strains that seem so different, such as these, are still considered to be part of the same species, whereas other organisms that seem more similar might be considered different species. Teacher should relate this discussion back to the definitions of what constitutes a species.  They may also want to remind students that all domestic dogs are considered the same species even though they look very different because all can interbreed to create fertile young (5 minutes)

Accommodations and Modification:

If desired, students with disabilities may be given the graphic organizer partially or completely filled out and they can use the extra time to create essay on the differences between the strains.

Assessment: Teacher will use a rubric to grade students on their essay.  Teacher may also collect and assess each student’s graphic organizers

Anchor Activity (if lesson goes shorter than planned)

Have students get into small groups and discuss the important differences between native and invasive Phragmites and what this might mean for the other organisms living within that ecosystem.  Imagine you are a deer/ raccoon (or any other animal that was featured in the lecture on species of a marsh).  What might it feel like to walk through a marsh where invasive Phragmites is growing, relative to one with native Phragmites?  If you were a marsh plant (like a cattail or other plant from the same exercise), how easy / hard would it be to grow in a marsh where invasive Phragmites is growing, relative to one with native Phragmites?


Students will write on a sheet of paper three major differences between native and invasive strains of Phragmites without using their notes.  


Have students complete their compare and contrast essay if they did not finish it in class and / or edit it for grammar and content based on the guidelines in the rubric provided.  

Resource on species status of Phragmites strains (background information for teacher)


TEACHER FEEDBACK REQUEST:  We are always to working to improve these lesson plans. If you use this lesson plan, we'd love to hear from you with your thoughts, comments and suggestions for future improvements.  Please take the time to fill in our survey at .  Thanks!


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© 2009.  Jodi Sisk (Author), Louise Wootton and Claire Gallagher (Editors)

 Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under assistance agreement NE97262206  to Georgian Court   University, it has not gone through the Agency's publications review process and, therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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