Being Observant – making decisions
This term as budding scientists we investigated the biological sciences where we sharpened our skills in classifying things around us.
We began by sorting things into living and non-living groups. We checked out some copies of scientific notes that were incomplete and made some decisions based on what we thought we knew and what we read.
We started our own collection of natural objects and created our Natural Science Table which is a very interesting place indeed.
We had to decide what would we look for that made something classified as a living thing. We had lots of discussion using various images of different living objects.
Once we had a go at sorting out living things, we used a table to record our observations of similar features. We learnt that sometimes a graphic organiser is a useful way to keep track of our observations quickly and that makes it easy to interpret/read and understand our data.
It was easier than we thought. Amazingly enough in maths the next day we used tables to work backwards for some problem solving. We started seeing tables being used in lots of other places.
We shared our team findings and as a class we discovered that..
All living things
- ate/produced waste
Once we had these criteria to use in working out the difference between Living and Non-living things, it was important to look closely at the different special features living things may have.
There are many hundreds of thousands of different animals and plants on our planet and finding ways to sort life can be tricky. When Scientists come across an animal, they need to classify it by trying to work out which animal/plant group it belongs to. One way to do that is to have different categories of features. They use a series of questions and follow the path of their answers until they get to a group name. This is called a key. We used a simple version of their branching key to see if we could identify special groups of animals.
By observing closely and answering yes no questions we can locate the animal group. For example try this specimen
Does it have bones inside it’s body? – No
Does it have a hard body?- Yes
Does it have antennae? – Yes
Does it have more than two antennae? – No
Does it have six legs? – No Its a Myriapod
It sounds easy enough and we found that sometimes we weren’t sure of the correct answers and that led us down the wrong track. Does that mean we need to observe closely?
Taxonomists in the field.
We had a go at being field biologists and as a team went out in search of leaf litter. Our job was to collect a sample of damp leaf litter and soil and observe the sample closely to identify which animal groups we collected.
Before we began we predicted the animal groups we would find. most teams agreed we would see insects, arachnids, worms, reptiles and birds.
Of course scientists need to be protected from dangerous substances, so we made sure we wore gloves and had eye protection.
Each team negotiated where they thought they would find a suitable amount of damp leaf litter. Then we set off.. Sadly excitement got the better of some teams and they couldn’t help running to their areas, an impulse scientists would be able to manage. They’ll think differently next time… they agreed.
Once we had collected our samples it was time to investigate the living animals we may have scooped up. Before we analysed our specimens we recorded the date and area the sample was found. An important part of collecting data.
Using magnified glasses we observed closely to identify what we had trapped. We tried using the branching key to give the animal its proper scientific name. We made sure we recorded our data using a tally as we identified them.
There was a lot to do and it took a couple of lessons. As we were concerned for the safety of the animals we trapped, we completed the final analysis the next day.
Sharing and collating data
It took a little time to finalise and collate our individual teams observations and there was much scientific discussion using and checking the animal group with the branching key.
Each team tallied their collection. As a class we combined the findings.
- 10 arachnids
- 16 myriapods
- 83 insects
- 2 annelids
From this result we could make a scientific statement which is a claim based on our data, which is our evidence.
The students had a go at interpreting the data and making their claim.
“Probably the most animals in our school is insects an we have proof. The annelids is the least.” Wil
“The most is the insects probably because we found the most 83.” Zahra
We think there are more insects the myriapods but more myriapods than arachnids. There are more arachnids than annelids. But in our sample there are more insects.” Fin
” We think that annelids are the least animals in the school and there are more insects, some myriapods and arachnids because there are 83 insects, 16 myriapods 10 arachnids.” Lakeisha
Learning how to classify living things does need lots of scientific thinking, sorting and observation. As a final check of our skills I gave students some images and asked them to create a poster that sorted the objects into groups.
Some things to think about…
What did you think about the study of Feathers, fur and leaves?
What activity did you find the most interesting or enjoyable? why?
What activity did you find the most challenging?
What are you still wondering about?