One of my favorite ways to teach ecology is through the lens of invasive species. Because they are SO disruptive to ecosystems, it is incredibly easy to interweave all the “ecology concepts” into a unit about their introduction and consequences. It’s easy to add discussions about their effects on the environment, the food web, relationships in ecosystems, and so on as we learn about the basics of ecology.
To wrap up the unit and address the NGSS standard, my students complete a unit capstone – invasive species project. They start by researching an invasive species in their local region and evaluate how it has affected biodiversity. Then, they work in groups to create a community action plan to address the problem, identifying criteria and constraints and evaluating several proposed solutions.
The present their learning in two parts — a “WANTED” poster and then a presentation of their community action plan. I just finished an update of my project a few weeks ago so that it is now COMPLETELY aligned to the NGSS! The update includes additional resources for organizing research, more detailed descriptions of the understanding to be demonstrated (based on the PE), and an improved rubric for both parts of the project (more fully aligned to the PE). It also includes more detailed teacher instructions.