Ken Burns Classroom

Invasive Species

Ken Burns Film: The National Parks

Collections: Postwar United States (1945-1970s)

Subject: Science

Grade Level: 6-10

Run Time: 1 class period

Hedera helix
Hedera helix, Choceň, Czech Republic. via Wikipedia Commons.

One of the problems national parks and nearly all parks face is the predominance of invasive plants. Plants such as English ivy (Hedera helix), purple loosestrife (Lythrum solicaria) and tree-of-heaven (Ailanthus altissima) can dominate an environment, choking out native plants and limiting food and habitat for animals. Some large tree stands of pine and fir have been so ravaged by plants like English ivy that they turn into desert forests. Removing invasive plants allows for the establishment of native plants and a more diverse ecosystem.

Students can contact a national park or nearby state park and find out about the problem of invasive plants in your area and learn if there are any volunteer programs where they can help remove the invasive plants. Then they can organize a presentation for your class or an after-school activity to present the problem to fellow students. Encourage students to invite a guest speaker from the parks department to assist them. For students who want to get more involved, the Student Conservation Association (SCA) is a great resource. The SCA provides college and high school-aged members with hands-on conservation service opportunities in virtually every field imaginable. Visit for more information.

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