Students learn to stop spread of invasive pests

New curriculum released by the USDA focuses on threats to crops, plants and trees
By: | Issue: October, 2015
September 14, 2015

A new curriculum released by the USDA teaches middle school students about the most dangerous invasive species threatening the nation’s trees, plants and crops.

Available this fall, “Hungry Pests Invade Middle School” is the first curriculum created by the USDA that focuses on all 18 species, including the khapra beetle, the Mediterranean fruit fly and the Asian longhorned beetle.

“Hungry pests” are invasive animals, plants or diseases that are not native to the United States and have no natural predators. They disrupt ecosystems, displace native species and cost the country an estimated $120 billion dollars in damages, says Suzanne Bond, assistant director of public affairs for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

The program teaches students to stop the spread of such pests by cleaning tires and camping gear before and after a trip into the woods. They also learn to prevent the transportation of invasive beatles’ hidden larvae to new areas by not moving firewood from one place to another, she adds.

“It’s not only a timely subject that aligns with current affairs, but an important one,” she says. “We expect that the young people who participate in these lessons will continue to live their lives in ways that do not move and spread the invasive pests that disrupt agricultural production and impact communities.”

The curriculum’s four lesson plans and online resources meet Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. It can be used in language arts, history/social studies, math and science classes.

Students read relevant texts, participate in team research projects, develop interactive maps and participate in class discussions, Bond says. Other activities include creating comic strips and writing breaking news articles about the pests.

“Students learn about the role that federal, state and local government play to protect American agriculture and safeguard trade,” she says. “We hope the curriculum and Hungry Pests campaign help inspire the next generation of Americans to work in a broad range of exciting careers at the USDA.”