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    In this activity, students get a taste of classification without having to work through the complexities of the Linnaean system. Students create their own informal classification systems, using visual or other characteristics, to group native plant leaves found in their local environment. The activity fosters observation skills (gathering and interpreting data) and provides practice in using and critiquing evidence.

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

    • use their senses to observe plant leaves
    • devise and revise their own classification system
    • comment on how they used evidence to devise their own classification system
    • comment on how they were able to critique evidence to revise their own classification system
    • experience why species may be reclassified as new information comes to light.

    Download the Word file (see link below) for:

    • background information for teachers
    • student instructions.

    Nature of science

    This activity is a simple way to investigate both the systematic grouping of leaves and the tentative nature of scientific classification. All students, from early primary to secondary, benefit from practising observation skills.

    Activity idea

    DIY fern classification uses fern specimens or image cards to group fern species according to their physical structures – rhizomes, fronds and sporangia.

    Useful links

    Learn more about native New Zealand trees and plants with:


      Published 20 April 2018 Referencing Hub articles