Take a scavenger hunt to discover endangered species.

Lesson: Native versus Introduced Species

Level: 4th Grade

Source: The Living Lab Program at the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden


  • SC.4.L.16.2: Heredity and Reproduction
  • SC.4.L.16.3: Heredity and Reproduction
  • SC.4.L.17.3: Interdependence
  • SC.4.L.17.4: Interdependence
  • SC.4.N.1.1: The Practice of Science
  • SC.4.N.1.7: The Practice of Science
  • SC.4.N.1.6: The Practice of Science
  • SC.4.N.1.4: The Practice of Science

Learning Goals:

  • Students will be able to identify botanical and animal adaptations and use critical thinking to hypothesize on the purpose behind said adaptations.
  • Students will be able to define and explain the significance of native species.
  • Students will be able to describe the negative affects introduced species have on our unique ecosystem.

Resources for guided learning: Living Lab Native Species Book


  • Lab books
  • Writing Utensils
  • iPads
  • Paper towels
  • Pom poms, leaves, and rocks separated into buckets
  • Index cards to represent food


Activity 1: Teacher leads short discussion about defining native and introduced species. Students offer examples from their knowledge and discuss their thoughts on any possible problems that could arise when new species are introduced. Students will each gather a handful of materials from buckets surrounding a large piece of damp paper towel stretched across two tables. Teacher will explain that the paper towel represents our unique ecosystem. Teacher identifies the leaves as local flora and instructs students with leaves to add them on top of the paper towel. Teacher then identifies the pom poms as native fauna and instructs students to add them on top of the paper towel. Teacher identifies the small rocks as introduced species and asks students to add them to the paper towel. Students observe as the ecosystem collapses and discuss how the ecosystem was not prepared to support the introduced species.

Activity 2: Student groups participate in a scavenger hunt for native and introduced species, recording their discoveries, and cataloguing where each species were seen. Students utilize iPads to photograph examples of different species as they explore the Botanical Garden searching.

Activity 4: Students regroup and use their recorded observations to identify patterns in location and number of native and introduced species located. Students then discuss to create hypothesis based on this data.

Activity 5: Students participate in a game of “Foraging Tag” where one group is the native species with limited mobility and a second group represents the introduced species with a wider range of movement options. Students compete for food and compare results at the end of each round.


You can download and print the lesson plan. Simply click on the link.

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