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  • In this activity, students work in small groups and come up with their own classification system for a number of marine organisms.

    By the end of this activity, students should be able to:

    • explain what general classification is and why it’s important
    • experience devising and revising their own classification system
    • better understand why scientists do not always agree and why species may be reclassified as new information comes to light.

    Nature of science

    Scientific knowledge may change with the discovery of new techniques and new information. Scientists commonly debate new information, arrive at new understandings, and as a result, the classification of organisms can change. For example, recent developments in DNA technologies have resulted in the reclassification of some species.

    What are bryozoans?

    In this video, Associate Professor Abby Smith, from the University of Otago, talks about bryozoans – their classification, their ability to band together in colonies and their varied habitats.

    Download the Word file (see link below) for:

    • introduction/background notes
    • what you need
    • what to do
    • discussion questions
    • possible variations
    • image cards
    • organism information.

    I [used this] activity in both year 9 and year 12. I use it to get students observing and making decisions about grouping. It also helps them to understand that there is more than one way to classify things and different systems could be used in different situations. I then use it to introduce the idea of the 5 kingdom classification system, keys, etc.

    In year 12, I extend the above ideas to include taxonomic groups (kingdom, phylum, class, etc.) and the binomial naming system. This leads on to an ecological study of estuaries and classifying animals by functional feeding groups.

    Derrith Bartley, teacher

    Related content

    Find out more about the classification system, naming species and the classification of marine organisms. Explore the characteristics of living things using earthworms as an example.

    Useful link

    Visit the Victoria State Government Department of Education science continuum website for more information about common student alternative conceptions related to classifying organisms.

      Published 12 October 2009 Referencing Hub articles
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