Learning Levels: Grades 4-6
Author(s): Alan K. Mac Kinnon
Who says that a shark is not a fish? What about a whale? Why do we classify things? Is there a system to it all? In this unit, students can invent a classification system for a given group of imaginary creatures, Caminalcules, and reinvent the classification structure. From there, students can proceed to the traditionally accepted classification of all living things.
The unit may be taught in the classroom, the
field, and by using technology. Students can be assigned to work in groups of
three or four to share classification strategies.
Begin by brainstorming all the different types of
wheeled vehicles. This should generate suggestions ranging from unicycles to
4-wheelers, people transporters, cargo transporters including aircraft, etc.
Then discuss why these vehicles are considered to be of “different types”.
Discuss the commonly accepted ways of classifying vehicles and seek suggestions
for improvements in the current system.
Continue with an exercise on classifying the
Caminalcules. These creatures can be viewed at http://nsm1.nsm.iup.edu/rgendron/camin.htmlx
A single file (Caminalcules )containing a photograph of the creatures can be found at the link at the bottom of this Unit of Practice. This can be printed and distributed to students for this exercise.
This exercise requires the teacher to first create three subsets and then allow groups of students to further divide these subsets into three more sub-subsets. To assist the students, each group should create paper cutouts of each Caminalcule creature which can then be sorted into different groups. Provide each group of students with three complete sets of the Caminalcules so that all creatures can be displayed at each classification level. (A different coloured paper for each of the three sets will save some confusion for the students)
Having completed these subsets and sub-subsets,
students should justify those choices. A charting diagram file (Caminalcules
Chart) can be found at the link at the bottom of this Unit of Practice.
Next, students can view the video located at
link below). If you need assistance with accessing this file see the paragraph
After the activities with Caminalcules, students should work with real, rather than imaginary, plants or animals. According to the place and time, the teacher can choose a group of living things for which students can develop a classification system. Some items that might be chosen are leaves, weeds, starfish, shellfish, mushrooms, mosses, even microscopic organisms. If a sufficient and diverse supply of suitable plants/animals is not physically available, plants or animals from pictures (including web based photos) will suffice – dinosaurs, snakes, sharks, ducks, horses, large cats, waterfowl, etc.
Whatever the choice, students can work in groups and each student should be able to justify the divisions made for each set, subset, etc. These sets should be subdivided until each plant/animal is in a single section (the actual species).
Students need scissors, glue, pre-made charts on classification (1 per student), copies of the pictures of the Caminalcules (2 per student - one of which will be cut up), an internet connection will help. A diverse group of living organisms will be required for the final classification exercises. Some items that might be chosen are leaves, weeds, starfish, shellfish, mushrooms, mosses, even microscopic organisms. If a sufficient and diverse supply of suitable plants/animals is not physically available, plants or animals from pictures (including web based photos) will suffice – dinosaurs, snakes, sharks, ducks, horses, large cats, waterfowl, etc.
Attached files include a JPG image of the Caminalcules, a JPG image of a classification work chart, an AVI file of the evolution video.