There is something big invading Gorham, but few know about it. This past year, Mrs. Gospodarek’s seventh grade science classes worked outside to kill an invasive species that has taken over the wooded area around Gorham Middle School (GMS).
Students worked in groups of three to try to come up with their own ideas to get rid of Fallopia Japonica, also known as Japanese Knotweed. This is a fast growing invasive species that looks just like bamboo. It has small red/green leaves. Japanese Knotweed was introduced into the U.S. from Eastern Asia, Japan, and China in the 1800s.
An invasive species is any kind of living organism that is not native to a certain location. It harms the environment and other living organisms. Invasive species grow, reproduce, and spread fast. Invasive species can cause serious harm to the ecosystem that it is in.
When an invasive species is introduced into an ecosystem, it might not have any predators. Also, it can breed and spread quickly, which means that it will take over an area. Invasive species eat native species, and the food that they eat, so they out-compete native species. Japanese Knotweed needs controlling because it can take over an area very quickly as it spreads aggressively and kill native species that other species need to survive.
To try to kill the Knotweed, students came up with ideas such as sprays (using a variety of different ingredients from coffee to vinegar to lime juice to dish soap), or digging it up and planting something else, and putting tarps on their area. They were not allowed to use any chemicals or herbicides. In order to test their theories they worked in an area in the woods behind the middle school where many people walk/run/ bike. Additionally, there is a pond near the school where these students experimented.
To experiment with their ideas, students were given a 10×10 foot plot. Once or twice a week students went outside to work on their plot, as well as collect data. In the classroom, they used the data to make their own website. They also put their data on the website “Vital Signs,” which is a Gulf of Maine Research Institute Program.
A district forester for the state of Maine came in to teach and speak to the classes about all the different invasive species that are growing in Maine and other places. Mrs. Gospodarek and her incoming classes are going to continue to try to eliminate the knotweed and learn more about the other invasive species that have taken over the woods behind GMS.