What level of taxonomic detail is best?

Creating resources about field science is always difficult. What bits do you include? What do you leave out? Will some of the information distract from the point you are trying to make.

The past couple of days have been spent thinking about how to described zooxanthellae-coral symbiosis for younger teens, without getting all caught up in issues like, ‘Well they’re plant-like, but not a plant…’

Today is all about taxonomic detail and the difficulty of getting it right for a broad age range, say 10-16.

The above image is of the mantle of a giant clam. As a science teacher, which of the following levels would you want including in a resource sheet about the coral ecosystem:

  • Kingdom
  • Phylum
  • Class
  • Order
  • Family
  • Genus
  • Species

Is there a ‘right’ level of detail?

6 Responses to “What level of taxonomic detail is best?”

  1. Kimberley Gillingham says:

    Hi Jamie, at the 10 and 11 I would probably only introduce the species name and maybe subphylum. For example, we identify crustaceans and break down species within that. Hope that helps.

  2. Jamie says:

    Thanks Kim, good to know. Hope that if there is a little extra information, it shouldn’t be too distracting.

    Just waiting on some secondary feedback.

  3. Kimberley says:

    Sounds great! More information is never a bad thing. It gives us the opportunity to select what is most important and offer extensions, should any students require it.

  4. Julia Lewis says:

    All – as the comment above suggests, if you are making resources for the full spectrum of schools, then put all of it! The teachers or even better the students will select what they need or want or can cope with. It is just nice that someone can produce a resource that will be a diversion from wikipedia! 10-16 is a wide range of ages – some of my 11 year olds could cope with all that taxonomy as an extension, and some of my y11s could only deal with the kingdom and genus/species. It depends!

  5. Lisa Thompson says:

    I agree with the previous posts; there will be some younger students who could handle a high level of detail but conversely some year 11 students who would find anything other than species name confusing so it would be good allow students/teachers to filter it according to their own preferences.

  6. I was going to say that I would teach kingdom, Phylum, genus and species unless we were talking about classification, in which case I would include it all and use the organism as an example.

    But having read the above posts, I think put it all in because then each person has the opportunity to select only what they want.

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