Alien Detectives


We think everyone can learn about invasive non-native (Alien) species so we’ve put together an educational resource – ‘Alien Detectives’.  It is full of exciting, challenging and fun activities for the young - and not so young!  

You'll find presentations, activities, worksheets, quizzes, crafts, puzzles and games, all themed around invasive alien species and the river environment which can all be downloaded and shared. There is an introductory presentation to start you off and all activities have notes and answer sheets to help you along – so you don’t need any prior knowledge to use and enjoy them.  The activities can be done in groups e.g. a school class but many can be completed individually at home or in the outdoors

When you’ve learned about invasive non-native species your teacher, group leader, mum, dad or carer can award you ‘Alien Detective’ status and you can download your hard earned Alien Detectives certificate. Or you could award it to yourself!  


The activities are mostly, but not all, aimed at primary school students, but we think anyone with an interest in invasive species will enjoy and learn from them too!  Several of these activities could also be used if you are working towards your John Muir Award, to help you explore and conserve your wild space. 

The Alien Detectives resource is presented over seven sections, most is on this page, but there are a couple of other places to visit too:

You are welcome to copy and share these resources for personal and educational use. All content is ©Scottish Invasive Species Initiative. 


Section 1 : Discovering Aliens

1.1 An introduction to Alien species

What is an alien species? What does invasive mean?
Download the powerpoint presentation, just press play and let us introduce the concepts of "aliens", "non-native" and "invasive species" and look at some examples of aliens. (Indoor)

1.2 Native or not? 

See if you can identify whether these species are native or non-native with our quiz. We've described an interactive, fun way to play if you've got a group or class. (Indoor) 

1.3 Scene of Crime report

Working individually choose one alien species and research it, completing the Scene of Crime report. (Indoor)

1.4 Alien bingo

A great way to round off this session and have a bit of fun. Calling list and bingo cards to print off. (Indoor, 2+ people or group)

1.5 Endangered species game

A great game for introducing the concept of conservation, looking at what threats - like invasive species - are effecting our native and endangered species. (Group, hall or outdoor)


Section 2 : Alien Landings

In this session you'll think about how the aliens have travelled and landed! 

2.1 Around the world

Where did they come from? This worksheet activity looks at where all these species travelled from around the world. (Indoor)

2.2 Alien landings

How and why did they get here?
This is a active game to learn about the methods of non-native species introductions, but could easily be adapted to do as an individual quiz. (Group, hall or outdoor)

2.3 Where in the world

Do some research and then act out the journey and adventures of an alien species. (Indoor / Outdoor)

2.4 Plant hunting adventures boardgame

Head off on a dangerous exploration of foreign lands as a plant hunter in search of new plants! Let our fun board game introduce you to the Plant hunters and their discoveries and adventures.

2.5 Plant collecting

A worksheet activity about plant collecting that follows on from the boardgame.                                                                           

2.6 Make a Wardian case

The Wardian case (a terrarium) revolutionised plant collecting.  A practical activity to discover if and how the Wardain case worked.


Session 3 : The Alien Invasion

What makes a successful alien? These activities will help you explore what makes something "invasive", what are typical invasive characteristics and traits.

3.1 What makes a good invader

Watch the powerpoint presentation and let us explain what are the typical invasive traits that an alien may have. (Indoor)

3.2  Design your own alien species 

Get creative and thinking about those invasive characteristics design your own invasive species. What is it called? where did it come from? (Indoor)

3.3 Alien top trumps

Print out our fantastic set of top trump cards on this card, cut up and play the game! Who is the most aggressive alien? Who grows the tallest? Who travelled the furthest? (Indoor, 2-6 people)

3.4 Impact of Mink

A tag style game to illustrate the impact of a non-native invasive animal - the American mink - on native species (the water vole in this example). (Group)


Section 4 : Prevent the Alien take over

Find out what we can all do to help prevent, slow or stop the alien invasion.

4.1 Biosecurity basics

A great introduction to "Biosecurity" - have a look at our river scene and match up the biosecurity actions and species. (Indoor)

4.2 The preventable problem

A group activity to match up the "problem" & "prevention", and then think about the "predictions" -  what would the aliens do if we didn't apply the prevention? (Indoor, Group)

4.3 No seeds please!

A practical activity to try out a biosecurity action - cleaning seeds out of shoe treads. (Outdoor)


4.4 Design a biosecurity poster

You can help spread the word about this important topic by designing your own poster to help raise awareness about biosecurity actions that people should be taking. (Indoor)


Section 5. Capture some Aliens!

Practical outdoor things you can do to help find and remove the Aliens

5.1 Carry out an alien plant survey

An activity to get your group thinking about surveying which can be used on any plants (not just alien ones) and in any location. (Outdoor)

5.2 Remove some Himalayan balsam

Time to get active, pull up some Himalayan balsam and make a difference in your local environment.  Don't worry if you don't know where to find any - there's lots of help and advice in the notes. (Outdoor)

5.3 Monitor a mink raft

Get your group actively involved in monitoring for American mink by adopting a mink raft. There are likely to be organisations locally who can lend you one and help set it up. Or if you are really keen you can make your own. (Outdoor)

5.4 Set up a footprint trap

Similar to monitoring a mink raft, you can make a simple footprint trap to try and find some animal footprints in the woods, garden or school grounds. (Outdoor)


Section 6. Explore your local countryside and river

So many things to do outside!

River Dipping, Tracks and Signs, Wildlife recording, Pooh sticks...

We've got lots more activities to help you discover your local river or countryside, so many, we've put them on another page! 

As you'll have discovered through learning about invasive non-native species, their biggest impact is on the environment and our wildlife, so to help put that in context all these fun activities will help you discover more about your local river and countryside. 

Go to River & Outdoor Activities


Section 7. Activities, Games and puzzles

Want a challenge? These invasive species themed puzzles, games and crafts are great to reinforce some of the things you've learnt about aliens.

Make, play and solve..

We've got loads more invasive species themed activities for you to do which will help reinforce your learning so far and help you discover more about aliens in some fun ways. There are things to make, games to play with a friend and puzzles to solve. We've listed them all on their own page.

       Invasive species battleships - Crossword puzzles - Wordsearches - Mask templates -
         Animal tracks quiz - Pictograms - Make an exploding seed pod - Pathfinder
            Top trump cards - Native seed paper - Group running games 

Go to Activities, Games and Puzzles

Don't forget to download and award your Alien Detective certificate! 


You might also be interested in

Background sources and Handy hints to go with our Alien Detectives educational resource
Lots of activities to help you explore your local river and countryside.
Activities, games and puzzles all themed around invasive species. Fun for all the family - young and old!


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