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What is at risk

This activity is based on the Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS) game. It will allow young people to experience the effects of invasive species, both on an ecosystem and the native species within it. The game is adaptable, and adults may desire to include certain Species at Risk from their locale that young people can represent.

Develop these Key Competencies:

  • Systems thinking
  • Critical thinking

Materials needed

  • Large paper clips (a variety of colours is fun), 2 for each participant
  • Invasive Species cards with names (Red)
  • Native Species cards (Green)
  • Species at Risk sheet with a list of your local species that are: species of concern, threatened or endangered
Activity Description
  1. All participants begin the game as Native Species at Risk. Participants have a card and receive 2 paper clips representing their life and the life of their offspring (their species’ future).
  2. Before the game commences, participants look around them and visualize the diversity of Native Species.
  3. Participants should all be familiar with Rock-Paper-Scissors (RPS), but review the rules of this activity (Rock beats Scissors, Scissors beat Paper, Paper beats Rock) and instruct participants they will use this throughout the activity.
  4. At a signal from the facilitator, participants find an opponent and begin playing RPS. Winners collect one paper clip from the loser.
  5. When players lose all their paper clips, they go to the facilitator to ask for a new card. The facilitator hands them a new card with an invasive species (red card) on it. Invasive Species represent threats to their local ecosystem. Participants place this card over their Native Species card.
  6. Invasive Species players have an advantage. The game continues with the following rules: a. Invasive species win over a Native Species player; they collect two paper clips from native species. b. Invasive species lose, they can take one paper clip from the Native Species player. c. Invasive vs Invasive – winners only receive (one) paper clip.
  7. Should Invasive Species lose all their paper clips, they keep playing but can only target Native Species players until they win a paperclip.
  8. The game ends when all players become Invasive Species (the facilitator must keep track of the number of participants and number of Invasive Species cards they’ve handed out). Players can tally their paper clips to determine which Invasive Species impacted the ecosystem most. 9. Have additional rounds to allow participants to experience how quickly ecosystems can be impacted by Invasive Species if not helped by us.


Some debriefing questions for participants

  1. How do you think Invasive Species affect the Native ecosystem?
  2. How do you think these Invasive Species got here?
  3. Who would suffer if Invasive Species were allowed to go unchecked?
  4. What can we do to the spread of non-native species?
  5. How can we stop the spread and introduction of non-native species of plants and other living organisms?


Week 3

Bring additional Research Participants can bring research as to how to avoid spreading the Invasive Specie they represented in the game. Group research and projects can result in presentations of findings encouraged.

Relevant information if you are facilitating
  • Invasive Species are non-native and don’t belong in the ecosystems they’ve been brought to. Humans are responsible for their introduction.
  • Invasive Species have the advantage that nothing in their new surroundings wants to eat or use them, and they are free t reproduce and multiply rapidly.
  • Some Invasive Species can out-compete existing native organisms for resources and cause these natives to disappear.
  • Some Invasive Species have defences like chemicals or spines that native carnivores and herbivores haven’t evolved to overcome.
  • This leaves the Invasive without natural enemies to control their numbers.
  • Invasive species have a significant effect on native biodiversity.
  • Participants should be able to empathize and internalize the challenges facing Native Species and recognize the threat that Invasive Species pose to our native ecosystems. Results of graphing data can be used to show participants how rapidly this Invasive takeover can occur and should stimulate questions as to why this happens and what can be done about it.
  • The Human Connection to ecosystems and the environment. If one ecosystem suffers – we suffer.
  • Participants should be made aware that Invasive Species are not all our Native Species have to deal with. Habitat loss is another significant concern worldwide. Climate change and greenhouse gases, along with pollution, are further concerns. A lack of human respect and human non-intervention compounds these challenges.


Variation of the activity

Participants or the facilitator can record the number of Native and Invasive Species at the start and every couple of minutes after to create a chart from which graphs can be derived.

Time needed

14 days

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Time needed

14 days