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.
DIY fern classification uses fern specimens or image cards to group fern species according to their physical structures – rhizomes, fronds and sporangia.
Looking at plants and leaves is a ready-to-use cross-curricular teaching resource for NZC levels 1–2. It includes opportunities for literacy, numeracy and art – as well as science.
Learn more about native New Zealand trees and plants with:
- the Department of Conservation’s Experiencing native trees in your green space teaching resource
- Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research’s Key to native plants of schools and marae in New Zealand
- University of Otago’s Flora Finder app
- New Zealand Plant Conservation Network’s Leaves PDF
- animated video from California Academy of Sciences of the inside of a leaf, travel from centimetre scale, through to millimetre to micormetre and ending in nanometre scale.