- Big Ideas
- Essential Questions
- Content Outcomes Addressed
- Standards Addressed
- Pre- and Post-Assessment
- Investigation 1: Introduction to Classification
- Investigation 2: Plant Scavenger Hunt
Print this Page
- Plants must be classified into identifiable groups in order for us to have a clear, organized way of identifying the diverse array of plants that inhabit the planet.
- How are plants categorized into groups?
- What are the characteristics of plants that are used to classify them?
Content Outcomes Addressed
- Students will be able to understand the purpose and importance of classification.
- Students will be able to perform simple classification of plants and to justify their reasoning by pointing to defining plant characteristics (e.g. producing seeds as opposed to spore).
- Students will be able to compare and contrast plants species and to identify specific characteristics that distinguish one plant group from another.
- Disciplinary Core Ideas: LS4.D(K-2)(3-5), LS1.A(K-2)(3-5), LS4.B(3-5)(6-8)
- Science and Engineering Practices: 1-4, 6-8
- Crosscutting Concepts: 1, 4, 6
- Reading: RI 3.7, RI 4.7
- Writing: W 3.2, W 3.8
- Speaking and Listening: SL 3.1, SL 4.1, SL 5.1, SL 3.2, SL 3.3, SL 4.2, SL 5.2, SL 4.3, SL3.6
- Mathematical Practice: MP 2, MP 3, MP 6
- Measurement & Data: 2 MD.A1, 2 MD. A3
National Geography Standards: 2, 7, 8
Plants are extremely complex and diverse, and there are millions of different plant species— some that haven’t even been fully discovered and studied yet! In order to continue the study and organization of plants, botanists (scientists who study plants) must find a way to categorize the many different species. While all plants are made up of similar parts that are essential in maintaining their survival (i.e. having roots, stem, leaves, etc.), they often look different. These differences in characteristics are used to group plants into species, which provides a way of classifying and therefore organizing plants.
While there are many ways to structure plant classification, one way is to group them into vascular and non-vascular plants, seed bearing and spore bearing, and angiosperms and gymnosperms. Plants can also be classified as grasses, herbaceous plants, woody shrubs, and trees.
vascular: plants that use roots and stems to take in water and nutrients (refer to lesson 1 in Unit 3)
non-vascular: plants that don’t use roots and stems
angiosperms: also known as flowering plants; all have seeds that are protected by an ovule (think of an apple or other fruit).
gymnosperms: a term meaning “naked seed;” refers to plants with seeds that aren’t protected by an ovule. Examples are conifers, which have pinecones.
grasses: plants that have slender leaves and reproduce by sending out underground stems called rhizomes that usually grow horizontally
herbaceous plants: those with leaves and stems that die at the end of the growing season
woody shrubs: plants that have stems that are covered by a layer of bark
trees: woody shrubs that have a main trunk and many branches
Pre- and Post-Assessment
Have the students make a list of plants then classify them and justify their reasons. Repeat this activity after the unit of study, using the same list of plants.
- Plants are one type of organism (one species) that don’t need to be classified into small groups
- Common vegetables (corn, potatoes, etc.) and fruits aren’t plants.
Investigation 1: Introduction to Classification
What is classification, and why is it important?
- Give the students 5 to 7 minutes to come up with, and write down, as many plants as possible. Put some examples on the board to get them started. (e.g. apple tree, pine tree, fern, grass, rice, corn, wheat, algae).
- Have the students call out the plants that they came up with, and add these to the examples already on the board.
- Ask the students to get into groups of four and give them 7 to 10 minutes to come up with categories (no more than 3-4) that can be used to organize the plants on the board. This is just a warm-up to get them thinking about ways of categorization.
- Have the groups of students talk to each other about how they chose to classify the plants.
- What are some ways the groups classified plants? How did they come to those decisions?
- Is it important to have an organized and predetermined way of classifying plants? Why or why not?
- Talk about how scientists generally conduct classification of plants (using physical similarities and dissimilarities) to distinguish species from one another.
- Talk about why classification is important. The following are some suggested reasons:
- It helps us remember different plants (i.e. it is possible to remember more plants if we can organize them into categories)
- It helps in the discovery of new species because it aids in predicting what characteristics newly discovered species have if we can compare and contrast them with already known species. (For example, if all female mammals produce milk for babies, then females in a new mammal species should also have the ability to produce milk.)
- It provides a way of “mapping out” the diverse and vast world of plants, since it gives us a method of creating relationships.
Investigation 2: Plant Scavenger Hunt
What is a specific way in which scientists classify plants?
- Note cards
- Colored pencils/pens
- Scissors (optional)
Procedure (allow approximately 2-3 days for this activity)
- Have students form into scavenger groups of 3 or 4 individuals, and assign each group to a different part of the school. (Note: This is dependent on the nature and environment of the school, so the teacher should make adjustments as necessary. For example, the parts could include the school garden, courtyard, cafeteria, the classroom, etc.)
- Encourage the students to find as many plants as they can and then draw them on their note cards. They can also draw food that they see, such as lettuce, spinach, or various fruits. (This would be more appropriate for students assigned to indoors areas.)
- Each group should keep its plant cards (or the teacher can collect them) for use later in the lesson.
- Go over the way plants are classified by scientists (refer to the hierarchy chart in the Background section of this lesson plan).
- Have the students get into their scavenger groups again and put each plant card into a category (or multiple categories). For example, a student with an apple card would label it “vascular,” “seed bearing,” and “angiosperm.”
- Have the class pool all the cards created in the scavenger groups together. Then ask the students to use the cards to create a hierarchy chart of plant categorization and to explain their reasoning.
- Did you find this way of categorization effective? Why or why not?
- Are there any other ways you might have categorized the various plants? How?
- What are some non-scientific ways that plants are classified? Have the students think of ways that they encounter and use plants (e.g. medicinal, harmful, edible, etc.).