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Thomas Coad, Rose Bay High School, Tasmania

Nature of the inquiry problem

This inquiry problem is targeted at the year 7 curriculum, however, is pitched at a level that will undoubtedly require a degree of scaffolding and prior knowledge.

Students will benefit from prior exposure to organised scientific data and its analysis and will need to have a reasonably strong grasp on some scientific vocabulary, e.g. abundance, distribution, etc. Furthermore, students should have had some prior learning with respect to the use of taxonomic keys and the hierarchical nature of taxonomic classification, i.e. Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. Students will also apply knowledge of scientific sampling procedures.

Additionally, it is recommended that a class tutorial be conducted with a focus on the Atlas of Living Australia and its use in citizen science.

The nature of the inquiry problem resides around the idea that in science we can use observable characteristics, with respect to both physical appearance and behavioural adaptations, to identify species (i.e. via dichotomous keys), whilst also placing focus on the hierarchical nature of scientific naming systems for taxa.

Students are encouraged to apply their knowledge of taxonomic identification and hierarchical classification to authentic data collected from a transit voyage aboard RV Investigator. This data resembles the abundance and spatial distribution of seabirds along

a series of transects conducted over several days that span the length of the East Australian Current, from Brisbane to Hobart. The latitudinal gradient of this data allows for a number of conclusions to be drawn regarding the prominence of species in particular regions. When this data is viewed in conjunction with abiotic overlays from the Atlas of Living Australia, further inferences can be made regarding the relationships between species and their environment.

Suitable year levels and subject areas

This lesson plan primarily addresses the grade 7 Australian Curriculum for science, however, has breadth to address areas of the mathematics curriculum for grade 7 in the area of data and statistics (ACMSP169). Additionally, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) general capabilities are incorporated through the use of photography, collection of GPS coordinates as well as the entry and retrieval of data from the Atlas of Living Australia database.

Curriculum links
  • Classification helps organise the diverse group of organisms (ACSSU111).


  • Consider the reasons for classifying such as identification and communication.
  • Grouping a variety of organisms on the basis of similarities and differences in particular features.
  • Consider how biological classifications change over time.
  • Classifying using hierarchical systems such as kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species.
  • Using scientific conventions for naming species.
  • Using provided keys to identify organisms surveyed in a local habitat.
  • Summarise data, from students’ own investigations and secondary sources, and use scientific understanding to identify relationships and draw conclusions based on evidence (ACSIS130).
  • Communicate ideas, findings and evidence-based solutions to problems using scientific language, and representations, using digital technologies as appropriate (ACSIS133).
Learning Objectives

This learning activity aims to consolidate students’ abilities to identify and differentiate between different organisms using a taxonomical hierarchy and physical features.

Students will use their newfound skills in taxonomic identification and data analysis, to collect authentic data from a local environment.

This activity also aims to expose students to authentic scientific data through which they can analyse trends, make predictions and formulate authentic solutions.

Student Learning Outcomes*

Students will be able to classify organisms based on observable differences and the use of a taxonomic key and will be able to implement the use of a hierarchical taxonomic classification system.

Students will be able to summarise data from a number of sources (both from their own investigations as well as secondary sources) in a highly logical and concise manner.

Students will be able to effectively communicate their ideas, methods and findings using scientific language and appropriate representations by means of a final presentation.


This task is designed to be collaborative and should ideally be approached in small groups. It incorporates elements of fieldwork, data collection and analysis, as well as the use of secondary sources of data and information that can be used with students’ own data to formulate authentic solutions and evidence-based explanations.

Assessment outcomes

Ongoing formative assessment carried out through the collection of species records, species identification and naming as well as effective use of Atlas of Living Australia database.

Summative assessment opportunity based on final presentation. This presentation can also incorporate peer/self-assessment opportunities.

Information and communications technology (ICT)

This resource specifically aims to incorporate elements of the Atlas of Living Australia, whilst also illuminating the potential benefits of engaging in citizen science.


© Taxonomic classification and species data collection (created by Thomas Coad) (2018). Copyright owned by Department for Education, Tasmania. Except as otherwise noted, this work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. To view a copy of this licence, visit

Download the lesson

Taxonomic classification and species data collection PDF (896 KB)

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