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Lesson on Species Classification

By Kathy Foust

This article and included scientific classification activity is designed to assist students in their understanding of the classification of species.

What is a Species?

Teachers, please read the following information to your students and then do the activity listed below to increase students' understanding of the category species.

The group known as "species" in the scientific classification system is commonly understood to be a group of living things that can successfully breed with each other. However, this is not an all inclusive statement simply because some living things are asexual and some different species can breed together, such as a horse and a donkey.

When you see the scientific name for a living thing written out, the species will always be the second word in the name. It will not be capitalized, but it will be in italics. For example: Homo sapien, otherwise known as a human. The word Homo is the genus portion of the name and the word sapien is the species part of the name. All living things that belong to the same species also belong to the same Domain, Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family and Genus. However, living things belonging to the same Family do not belong to the same species. For example, an ape belongs to the same family as humans, but not the same species.

Species Activity

Teachers, write the following information on the board. Ask student to identify if the listed pairs of living things would belong to the same species.

  • Monarch Butterfly and Blue Butterfly
  • Sea turtles and Snapping turtles
  • Woman and Man
  • Blue Jay and Robin

Review the list with the students, explaining why or why not each pair is or is not a species. Next, ask students to take out different types of writing utensils, such as markers, pens, pencils and crayons. Ask students to separate the groups into very specific categories as if they were designating species. Explain that each type of writing utensil may belong to the same category "writing utensils", however, they belong to separate categories of "pens, pencils, markers and crayons". Each category would then be separated by certain factors. For example, in the category of "markers"; highlighters, sharpies, washables etc would each belong to their own separate group of "species", but would not be in separate species based upon color.

The above activities should help your students understand that the species classification is a very specific one (which is also a great way to remember that "species" is the most specific category.) Following the activities, ask students to think of examples of species that differ from each other in minute ways, such as humans being of different races.

*NOTE- this is the last article in a two part series, please see the beginning of the Scientific Classification series.