Classification with Year 7 (Australian Curriculum)

A couple of weeks ago I started working with a teacher at a local primary school. Her year 7 class had finished most of their science course for the year so we developed a short unit on classification that the students could investigate.

According to the Biological sciences strand in Year 7 of the Australian Science Curriculum, students need to consider that:

There are differences within and between groups of organisms; classification helps to organise this diversity.

The Elaborations state that students:

  • Consider the reasons for classifying such as identification and communication
  • Group a variety of organisms on the basis of similarities and differences in particular features
  • Use simple taxonomic keys e.g. dichotomous keys to identify, sort and name organisms.

We worked out a short teaching unit and this is attached.

Classification Unit Outline (PDF)

We discussed with the students the reasons for classification; the broad groupings of organisms (6 Kingdoms); and the five classes of Chordates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.)

Students had a chance to examine the external coverings of some specimens such as bird feathers, mammalian fur, snake skin, crocodile skin, and fish skin. We discussed animals that had coverings different from most of their group. e.g. mammals that don’t have fur; fish that don’t have scales; birds that don’t have ‘wings’ and so on. Students also investigated other characteristics possessed by most members of theses classes.

Students examining animal coverings

The students completed some worksheets that were taken from the

Micro Marvels Teacher Resource Booklet (PDF)

Then in another session after morning tea, we discussed the levels of classification and how scientists use dichotomous keys to identify organisms. Students started looking at the invertebrate specimens in the Micro Marvels kit and used a dichotomous key from the booklet to classify the specimens into their major animal groups.

Students examining invertebrate specimens
Students examining more invertebrate specimens

The following week, I brought in 20 invertebrate specimens (numbered 1 – 20) and the students practised using the dichotomous key to classify them. Students learnt how these organisms are grouped on the basis of shared features and how they are different from other groups.

Invertebrate Specimens to classify

Teachers can collect their own specimens over the year and build up quite a collection. So next time you are at the beach, collect some of those shells and other flotsam that wash up on the shoreline. There could be molluscs, sea urchins, sponges, crabs etcetera. Make sure you dry them out well before putting them into a sealed container to preserve them.

To investigate classification at a more in-depth level, we watched some videos entitled Hints on Identifying Insects and Using an Interactive Key on our QM website. Then several orders of insects were examined. (A tray of 9-10 insect orders is provided in the Micro Marvels kit.) Students then had some background information to help them identify the unidentified insects in the trays that I brought in. (Unidentified insect trays can be borrowed from QM Loans or the teacher and the class may like to collect their own.)

The key that we used was the online interactive CSIRO Invertebrate Key.

To examine small features of insects such as the rostrum of bugs and halters on flies, the digital microscope in the Micro Marvels was used. Good quality hand lenses can also be used.

Halters on a fly
Rostrum (sucking tube) of an Assassin bug

Students can collect their own terrestrial invertebrate specimens. Some instructional videos on this are shown in the Collect Insects section of our Wild Backyards site.

Hopefully from this short teaching unit, students will have gained an appreciation for the beauty and diversity of life on Earth.

Sustainability Focus in new Australian Curricula

Sustainability is one of the three cross-curriculum priorities in the new Australian curricula. This topic can be incorporated quite easily into teaching units for the new Science, History, and English curricula that are to be implemented in 2012.

As stated in the Australian curriculum, ‘sustainability addresses the ongoing capacity of the Earth to maintain all life,’ and ‘Sustainable patterns of living meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.’

Two kits that can be borrowed from QM Loans that address this issue of sustainability are the Pests and Threats kit and the Sustainable Living kit.

Pests and Threats kit
Pests and Threats kit

The Pests and Threats kit looks at issues such as: loss of habitat; the effects of introduced species on local environments; land and sea pollution; global warming, etcetera. There is a Pests and Threats Teacher Resource Booklet that can be downloaded from the Learning Resources section of our QM website. Go to the bottom of the page and then navigate to the page where resources that start with a ‘P’ are grouped (as all resources are listed in alphabetical order). There is also an online resource titled Endangered Species. While it is based on an exhibition that is being renewed at QM South Bank, there are parts of the resource that can be done in a classroom setting without visiting the museum.

Another kit that is relevant is the Sustainable Living kit. This contains lots of objects from yester year and it is interesting to see if students know what these objects are and what they do. Students then can investigate the appliances and objects we have today that perform a similar function. An assessment of the energy input, water usage, and environmental effects of each can then be compared.

Sustainable Living kit

There are lots of support material that complement this kit and again these can be found in the Learning Resource section of our website – most begin with the letter ‘S’ so navigate to this page.

Some examples are:

  • Sustainable Futures – Energy Challenge
  • Sustainable Living actions survey
  • Sustainable Living knowledge survey
  • Sustainable Living objects
  • Sustainable living practices – teacher notes
  • Sustainable living practices – student notes
  • Sustainable living water usage
  • Sustainable Objects fact sheet
  • Take One Object

Other online resources that may assist with teaching the concept of Sustainability include:

  • Energy Usage – Past, Present and Future – Teacher notes and Student worksheets
  • Energy – Prehistoric Past and Sustainable Future
  • Energy-related Activities

Some of the above resources are listed in the Related QM Resources – Sustainable Living section of a mini-website we produced on Dinosaurs, Climate Change and Biodiversity.

Educational activities that utilise these kits and online resources should enable students to appreciate that all life is connected through ecosystems and to realise that human activity impacts on ecosystems and biosphere sustainability.

Behind the Scenes – the Lumiere Cinematographe

Colleagues in the QM Cultures and Histories program have been researching  information about some of the oldest cameras in the museum collection, held in storage ‘behind the scenes’. This prompted me to write about a fascinating piece of early technology: the Lumiere Cinematographe.

The Lumiere Cinematographe in the Queensland Museum collection was purchased by the Queensland Department of Agriculture to film Queensland life and landscapes. The official government photographer Frederick Charles Wills and his assistant, Henry William Mobsby traveled the state in order to capture life in the colony. The film was then displayed at the 1899 British Expo in London to encourage people to migrate to Queensland for a better life and to boost the population. By purchasing the camera the Queensland Government was the first government to use this new motion picture technology. You could even say it was the forbear to the present day Tourism Queensland.

The Lumiere brothers worked in their father’s photography business during the late 1800s.  At the time the business focused on still image film and cameras.  When their father retired in 1892 the brothers began to work on creating a movie camera. They patented their invention, the Cinématographe in February 1895, and displayed their first films to the public shortly after.  The first recorded images were three versions of the workers leaving the Lumiere factory. These movies are known as one horse, two horses and no horses due to the horse and carriage seen in the first two films.

Lumiere Cinematographe – Queensland Museum Collection

The camera not only took the images but was also able to process the film and be converted to a projector to display the processed film in a cinema. Each roll of film was 17 meters long and would contain 800 slides which allowed the camera to record between 40 and 50  seconds of moving images depending on the speed that the handle was cranked.  The ideal speed for the camera was 16 frames per second.  Currently movies are shown at 24 to 30 frames per second.

Lumiere Cinematographe, rear view with case open – Queenland Museum Collection

The movie camera was not a new invention in 1895, however the Lumiere brothers were the first to patent film perforations.  A film perforation is a punched hole on each side of the slide.  This allowed the camera to roll the film with much greater consistency and accuracy.  This technology is still used today, commonly with four rectangle holes next to each slide which creates the iconic image of film stock.

The films are able to be viewed through the National Film and Sound Archive website. Although all the films on this site are not of Queensland, it does contain many of the Queensland films produced using the camera in the museum collection.

In 1901 the Salvation Army’s Limelight Department, use several of the Lumiere Cinématographe cameras to film the Australian Federation parade and ceremony in Sydney.  The New South Wales government hoped that the movie would form a permanent record of the event, however only a small amount of footage has survived during the last century. Footage of The Parade and the Oath and Signing can now be seen on YouTube.

Unfortunately for the Lumiere Brothers they thought that “cinema was an invention without a future”. However, they turned their attention to the development of coloured film for still images and become a major producer of photographic equipment and supplies in Europe.