If you're a teacher, the science kits you use in your classroom may contain non-native species such as invasive crayfish or variable-leaf milfoil, or you may have acquired an aquarium that is home to invasive vegetation such as Brazilian elodea. Despite your best efforts, these plants and animals may be taken out of your classroom and introduced to the natural environment. Or, your school grounds may be home to invasive species such as knapweed or Himalayan blackberry.
What can you do to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species?
Work with your school to prevent classroom use of invasive species. To ensure that the science experiments and lessons at your school do not lead to the release of non-native species to the surrounding environment, you can take the following steps:
- Know what's in your science kits and how to handle and dispose of their contents. You may need to contact your Education Service District, school science coordinator, or biological supplier to inquire about returning or recycling classroom species. See this guidance on handling and disposal of non-native aquatic species and their packaging.
- Be sure to dispose of species properly. Do not release non-indigenous species!
- Take care not to purchase plants which are quarantined in Washington, meaning that their sale or trade is illegal under state law. Internet sites may be based in other states, which do not have the same quarantines.
For more information, see the following Web sites:
- Aquatic Invasive Species in the Classroom
- How to Dispose of Classroom Specimens
- Information on rusty crayfish, commonly sold by biological supply houses
- The Pacific Education Institute
Get rid of aquarium contents appropriately. Dumping those contents into a nearby lake, river, or wetland may make you feel like you are freeing the animals, but you may be introducing completely new species into an ecosystem. Instead, you can take the following steps:
- First, consider the alternatives to getting rid of aquarium plants and animals, such as donating them to a responsible hobbyist, pet store, or other institution.
- Alternatively, dispose of plants in your trash or burn them. You may compost them if you know the compost will be produced at very high heat (such as at a commercial composting facility).
- Contact a veterinarian or pet retailer for guidance about humane disposal of animals. One option is to freeze fish or other aquatic animals, gradually slowing their metabolism.
- Don't flush the contents down the toilet, as those pipes eventually may lead to a waterway or wet area where the species could survive.
Look for and help to eradicate any invasive species on school grounds, and promote native and desired species.
- Report invasive species by calling 1-877-9-INFEST or online.
- Learn to identify invasive species, using resources such as the Washington Noxious Weed Control Board's Guides for identifying weeds.
- Eradicate populations on school grounds, and replace them with non-invasive, native species suited to your site and needs. Your county noxious weed coordinator may provide assistance.
- Cultivate and protect native plants to reduce opportunities for invasive species to establish. See the Garden Wise guidance, tailored for Eastern and Western Washington, contact a Master Gardener, or see this guidance for responsible water gardening.
- Look for funding opportunities, such as the Schoolyard Habitat program run by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Teach your students about invasive species. For ideas, please see the following links:
- Aquatic Invasive Species Toolkit
- Nab the Aquatic Invader
- Educational resources from the National Invasive Species Information Center
- Lesson ideas from National Geographic