Teaching Material

Be Aquatic Invasive Species Aware Unit

This unit is designed for grades 6-8.
Creation of this unit was supported by the Flathead Lake Biological Station, the Flathead Lakers, and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.


Be AIS Aware Unit Overview



Through teaching this unit, students will be introduced to aquatic invasive species (AIS) that are potential threats to Montana waters. These lessons explore pathways of introduction, methods of dispersal, potential environmental impacts, distribution of these organisms, and adaptations that make these species invasive, as well as impacts on different community stakeholder groups.

The unit overview (link below) includes recommended teaching sequence and standards being met by each of the lessons.


Unit Overview (pdf)



Lesson 1: Wonder Whys of AIS



In this lesson students will be introduced to five non-native aquatic invasive species (AIS) that are potential threats to Montana waters. This lesson will explore pathways of introduction, methods of dispersal, potential environmental impacts, distribution of these organisms, as well as, adaptations that make these species invasive.

Lesson Plan

Wonder Whys of AIS Lesson Plan (pdf)

Additional Materials 

AIS Stations (pdf)

AIS Distribution Maps (pdf)

Aquatic Invasive Species Field Guide (pdf)

Montana Reference Map (pdf)


Wonder Whys of AIS Presentation (pdf)




Lesson 2: Food Web Challenge


In this lesson, students complete a lake food web challenge, learn how all organisms in the lake ecosystem are interconnected, and explain how aquatic invasive species can impact the food web.

Lesson Plan

Food Web Challenge Lesson Plan (pdf)

Additional Materials

Food Web Challenge Cards (pdf)


Food Web Challenge Presentation (pdf)

Lesson 3: Mapping AIS Mayhem


In this lesson, students will examine invasive mussel distribution maps to learn how fast invasive mussels can disperse over time, discuss how the mussels move from place to place, and explain how they could impact their local economy and environment.

Lesson Plan

Mapping AIS Mayhem Lesson Plan (pdf)

Additional Materials

Columbia River Basin Map (jpg)

Flathead Region Map (jpg)

Montana Reference Map (pdf)

Watershed Map (pdf)


Mapping AIS Mayhem Presentation (pptx) or (pdf)
* For optimal classroom use, we recommend using the Powerpoint (PPTX) version. For low bandwidth or web viewing, use the PDF version. 


Lesson 4: AIS Mussel Mania


Students will compare and contrast native freshwater mussels to invasive zebra and quagga mussels, and learn how their life cycles, anatomy, and habitat preference are similar or different to each other.

Lesson Plan

AIS Mussel Mania Lesson Plan (pdf)

Additional Material

Freshwater Mussel Life Cycle part A (pdf)

Freshwater Mussel Life Cycle part B (pdf)

Invasive Mussel Life Cycle (pdf)

Zebra Mussel Anatomy (pdf)



Lesson 5: Most Unwanted AIS Poster


In this lesson, students will create an informational poster about aquatic invasive species (AIS) that are a threat to their local environment and economy. The poster may be completed as either an electronic document or as a hard-copy poster. To educate the school community, the finished posters can be posted in the school and/or compiled into a document that can be shared electronically.

Lesson Plan

Most Unwanted AIS Poster Lesson Plan (pdf)

Additional Materials

Most Unwanted AIS Presentation example (pdf)

Lesson 6: Amazing AIS Adaptations


In this lesson, students will design an imaginary aquatic invasive species (AIS), and explain how AIS have physical, chemical, and/or behavioral adaptations that help them outcompete other species.

Lesson Plan

Amazing AIS Adaptations Lesson Plan (pdf)

Additional Material

Amazing AIS Adaptations Cards (pdf)


Amazing AIS Adaptations Presentation (pdf)


Lesson 7: Managing AIS


In this lesson, small groups of students will have 15-20 minutes to read one fact sheet and watch one short video about the impacts of Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) on various stakeholder groups in Montana. They will prepare and give a short presentation to share with the class about their stakeholder. They will be challenged with an AIS management scenario and asked to reflect on the impact for their particular stakeholder.

Lesson Plan

Managing AIS Lesson Plan (pdf)

Additional Material

Stakeholder Readings (pdf)












Community Connections: Mussel Walk

A culminating activity after completing the AIS lessons is to have the students participate in a Mussel Walk along a local shoreline. The first Mussel Walk around Flathead Lake was organized by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT).  The activities described below were done at Mussel Walks during Spring 2019 through a collaboration between CSKT, the Flathead Lakers and FLBS.  

During the Mussel Walk, students put their classroom knowledge to the test as they rotate through four activities and then walk along the shoreline to search for invasive mussels and to pick up litter. The goal is for the students to become empowered with the knowledge of how to protect their local lakes, ponds, wetlands, rivers, and streams from invasive mussels and to take an active role in Aquatic Invasive Species prevention. 

Below are brief descriptions of the activities.  More detailed instructions will become available in 2020.

Activity A: Mussel Game Show (15 min.)

Students work in groups of 3-5 to answer questions about invasive zebra and quagga mussel growth, development, reproduction, and methods of dispersal.  Students record their answers on a whiteboard and earn points if they answer correctly. The winning team earns bragging rights and a prize!

Activity B: Mussel Inspection (15 min.)

Students perform an inspection activity that requires them to think about the challenges boat inspectors face when they have to quickly but effectively inspect motorized and non-motorized boats.

Activity C: Clean, Drain, Dry Challenge (15 min.)

Student groups of 3-5 are given a small model of one of the following objects: Jet Ski, boat, trailer, rope, seaplane, fishing gear, kayak or raft, inflatable, squirt gun, or fire tanker truck.  The students work together to create an action plan for how they would effectively clean, drain, and dry the object and then present their plan to the group.

Activity D (option #1): Project Wet - Invaders! (15 min.)

Students compete in a game that introduces invasive mussels to an existing population of native mussels. Students take the role of a native or invasive mussel and compete for habitat space and resources.

 Activity D (optional #2): Mussel Dog Demo (15 min.)

A mussel dog handler demonstrates how mussel dogs inspect boats for invasive mussels.  Teachers must call ahead to arrange for a mussel dog handler to come to the Mussel Walk.

 Note: Although the students typically love to see the mussel dogs in action, the dogs are not always available for these events.  As a result, students can complete the Project Wet - Invaders! game if the mussel dogs are not available.

Shoreline Mussel Walk Activity (30 min.)

To engage in active stewardship of their local watershed, students walk in groups of 20-30 to search for invasive mussels and to collect litter along the shoreline.  Students are given the added challenge to find five pre-placed objects covered in 3D-printed invasive mussels designed by Bigfork artist Eric Thorsen.