Activity: Writing Hypotheses: Battle for the Marsh

Summary: Students learn about the coastal marsh ecosystem and characteristics of an invasive plant, Phragmites australis (common reed). They will review Phragmites vegetation sampling data and observations of birds using the marsh to develop a testable hypothesis about their relationship. Students will also predict and sketch a graph with data that supports their hypotheses.

You Need:


Part 1

Engage students in the topic of Great Lakes marshes and aquatic invasive species.

  • Are there marsh areas near your school?
  • Can you bring in examples of native and invasive plant species? (Only bring invasive species if there is no chance of spread.)
  • If possible, let students handle samples of Phragmites and ask if they’ve encountered the plant.
  • Have students share their own experiences of wetlands (hiking, birding, fishing, etc.).

Part 2

Use the Great Lakes Invasive Species lesson to explore the concept of aquatic invasive species.

  • This lesson helps students understand the negative impacts that invasive species have on the Great Lakes ecosystem.

Part 3

  • Use the background information and additional resources found in this lesson background to explain the life history and unique characteristics of Phragmites, as well as the threat it poses to Great Lakes marshes.
  • Explain the role of hypothesis writing in scientific research, especially the importance of testable statements or questions containing independent and dependent variables.

Part 4

  • Download the data set and data sheet to begin the hypothesis writing activity.
  • Have students work on the activity in small groups, then report results to the entire class.
  • The activity provides students with an opportunity to extend their knowledge and apply it in a real-life research situation.