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4thGrade Core
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The Scheme of Things

Okay, without making too much of a disturbance, look up and study the people that are around you right now. After about two minutes, quietly take out a sheet of paper, and make five observations about the physical features (hair color, eye color, height, etc.) of five people. (This assignment is not to be used to make fun of people!) When you are done, make five observations about yourself. Did any one have exactly the same features? Unless your subjects included identical twins, the answer to this question is probably - no.

There are many different types of plants, animals, and people on this planet. We call this diversity or biodiversity. Scientists classify (divide) them into certain groups or categories based on how they are alike.

Even though animals are diverse, they are also the same in many ways. If you look at your classmates again, do you notice things that are alike? There are many things that make you the same, so scientists have classified you into the same "group". You are humans, and you are also mammals.

We use classification systems in our everyday lives. Do you put your socks in the refrigerator? Of course not! You put your socks in a specific place in your room. In fact, you have specific places for a lot of stuff in your room. Therefore, you have a classification system for your room. (At least most of you do.)

You're the scientist!
Classification systems help us to make sense of the variety of things in our world. These systems are made by humans. They are usually based on physical similarities and chemical relationships between things.

Do it!
Try this classification activity.

  • Remove everything from your desk.
  • Sort the material from your desk into categories based on how they are similar or work together.
  • List the groups that you have made.
  • Explain your classification system. (Why did you group your materials the way you did?)

You can also try this activity at your desk.

Collect pictures of insects and cut them out.

  • Group them by their similarities and differences.
  • Give a name to each of your groups.
  • Explain your method of grouping. (Why did you place certain insects in the groups that you did? )
  • Can some of the insects be members of more than one group? Explain.

Scientists have already helped us classify Earth's animals and plants into categories. I'll bet you already know some of these groups. Look at the chart below and see what you already know. Do you know where your pet iguana fits in?

Classify it!

Scientists have already helped us classify Earth's animals and plants into categories. I'll bet you already know some of these groups. Look at the chart below and see what you already know. Do you know where your pet iguana fits in?






warm-blooded, fur/hair, live birth, vertebrate (with backbones), lungs


don't loose their leaves, have pine cones


cold-blooded, vertebrate, scales


loose their leaves every year


live on & off land, vertebrate, cold-blooded, lay eggs, gills




feathers, vertebrate, lay eggs, wings, warm-blooded




gills, vertebrate, live in water, lay eggs, cold-blooded




invertebrates (without backbones), exoskeleton, 6 legs



The above chart is just a small part of the system which scientists use to group the great diversity of living things in our world. Scientists classify plants and animals into categories, and they also classify parts of the world. A biome, for example, describes a zone (or land area) on Earth with a similar climate, plant life, and animal life. (You've already know about some of the biomes of Utah!)

Clean it!

Classify the materials in your own bedroom. Throw the junk in the garbage and neatly organize your belongings. Think of it this way - you practice "real science" and make your parents very happy at the same time!

Do It

Backyard diversity
Find out about the biodiversity in your own backyard. After studying the information on this site, use a magnifying glass to identify and classify the abundance of life in your own backyard. Remember, you can make up your own system to group the life that you discover.

Have fun! Remember - some bugs or spiders may bite!

The tree of life
Make a brochure about one group of living things. Remember there are millions of living things on Earth and not all of them are plants or animals. Be creative and find a group that is unique.

Download the plug-ins: Get Adobe Acrobat Reader , and Get Quicktime Player. (The QuickTime plug-in is needed to play sounds and movies correctly.)

Want to share photos of you or your friends doing this activity? Send it in an e-mail with the following information:

  1. The title of the activity
  2. The URL (Internet address)
  3. Your name.

Remember that no pictures can be used that show student faces or student names on it. 

Teachers should view the Teacher Site Map to relate Sci-ber text and the USOE 4th grade science core.

Updated October 24, 2008 by: Glen Westbroek

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