Have fun learning about invasive species with a new tool from Pennsylvania 4-H

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State Extension, with funding from the state Department of Agriculture, has created a “fun,” hands-on, interactive curriculum to address the threat of invasive species, to be offered through its Pennsylvania 4-H youth program.

“Stop the Invasion: Unwanted Plants, Bugs and Other Pests” educates youth and adults about the role they can play in slowing the spread of invasives in Pennsylvania. The lessons in this curriculum feature current pests affecting Keystone State farmers, families and the environment.

The 4-H invasive species project book provides a much-needed, hands-on and interactive curriculum to address the threat of invasives that makes learning fun, according to Jennifer Fetter, extension educator watershed and youth development.

4-H Stop the Invasion

“Stop the Invasion: Unwanted Plants, Bugs and Other Pests” educates youth and adults about the role they can play in slowing the spread of invasive species in Pennsylvania.

Image: Penn State

“Using best practices in experiential and inquiry-based learning, users can expand their knowledge and discover the role they can play in surveillance, management and eradication of these destructive plants and animals,” she said. “This new 4-H project can be used in school classrooms, nature centers, camps, scouting programs, or any youth education setting, in addition to use by 4-H members and clubs.”

Stop the Invasion is especially useful for groups seeking educational opportunities that lead to community service and action projects, noted Fetter, who added that each lesson in the book is also aligned with current educational standards.

“You don’t need to an expert to lead the activities in this book. Each lesson in the Stop the Invasion 4-H project has all of the background information and guidance you need,” she said. “The target audience for this curriculum is middle-school aged youth. Each lesson, however, is adaptable for younger and older audiences.”

The Stop the Invasion 4-H curriculum’s six chapters each include opportunities for reading and interactive activities that can be done individually or in a group. Chapter 1 begins with an introduction to invasive species. Chapters 2 and 3 look at the impacts of invasive species on the environment and on our lives. Chapters 4 and 5 explore how invasive species spread and what can be done to stop them. Finally, Chapter 6 provides an opportunity for youth to dig deep into information about one invasive species of their choice.

 

invasive species

The "Stop the Invasion" project book includes the spotted lanternfly, which was discovered for the first time in the United States in Berks County, Pennsylvania, in 2014, poses a threat to many economically important species of trees and woody ornamentals.

Image: Penn State

Interspersed throughout the curriculum are case studies of invasive species of concern in Pennsylvania, such as the spotted lanternfly, allium leafminer, and the yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitos that carry Zika virus. Opportunities for youth to participate in citizen science by identifying and reporting invasive species in their local communities are also addressed.

Stop the Invasion is a critical curriculum because the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that invasive pests, which include foreign insects, weeds, and even larger animals like fish, birds and mammals, are the second greatest threat to biological diversity after habitat loss. Invasive species also impact our lives and economy. Some of these pests are simple nuisances, while others can have devastating financial impacts.

Pennsylvania has seen the emergence of several new invasive insects in recent years. These insects can completely devastate crops and resources like onions, orchards and ash trees. Everyone can play an important role in stopping the spread of invasive species.

For more information about the curriculum, including training opportunities and how to obtain a copy, contact your county’s 4-H Educator in the Penn State Extension office nearest you.

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Last Updated March 06, 2017