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Activity 3: Taxonomy
Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- Newsprint, markers, and tape
- Different small objects - about 20
- A pad of sticky notes or a pile of index cards (about 20)
- A large sheet of poster board or newsprint, and tape
Preparation for Activity
- Look in a variety of places for small objects. Wander outside and collect items such as twigs, dead bugs, parts of plants, and nuts. Include indoor objects, too, such as hair, ornaments, game pieces, erasers-whatever you can find. Choose items intentionally, taking into consideration the make-up and disposition of your group.
- Spread the small objects on a table.
- Write on newsprint, and post:
- What is it made of?
- What color is it?
- Is it edible or not edible?
- Does it have legs?
Description of Activity
This activity gives children practice applying the use of reason to the observable world.
Tell the children they will work together to group different objects into categories. Say:
Taxonomy is the science of classifying things into related families and groups. The Swedish naturalist Carolus Linneaus created a chart of all animals and plants that was so well organized scientists still use it today. We are going to practice taxonomy now by classifying the objects on the table.
Have participants choose an object to classify first. Have a volunteer or co-leader write the name of the object (in all caps) on a sticky note or index card and write down the group's answers to each question you have posted. For example, the answers for a PENCIL might be wood; yellow; not edible; no legs.
Set the first object aside, and ask the group to choose another object. Repeat the process, completing a sticky note for each object.
As a group, arrange the notes into groupings that make sense. Start by putting the notes for all the plastic things together, the notes for red things in another group, and the notes for edible things somewhere else. The questions will begin when you sort an object, for example, that is both red and plastic. Invite the children to suggest how you can arrange the notes to show that object belongs in both groups. Keep doing this until everyone is satisfied that they are arranged in the best possible way, so that similar categories and objects are near each other. This activity requires consensus. Lively discussion may arise as to the arrangement of objects.
Follow-up with questions:
- What did you discover?
- Did you have to have a reason for placing something under a heading?
- Did reasoning help to sort things out?
- In what ways have you used reasoning in other places in your life?
Variation: Taxonomy Display
You may wish to create a display of the taxonomy the group created. Recreate the arrangement of notes on a poster. Or, match up the objects with their descriptions in a three-dimensional display. Attach the objects to the notes with tape or a glue gun. Use yarn to show similarities.
Including All Participants
Allow children to volunteer for the writing or reading roles in this activity; do not put children on the spot.