In today’s lessons our students discussed different types of classification. Classification is an important tool in science and it helps us understand certain topics by studying their relationships. We talked about why and how scientists use classification, and how classification is used in everyday life. There are many different ways to classify one set of objects; the classification scheme we choose depends on what we are interested in studying or what questions we are trying to answer.

For today’s activity, the students came up with their own way to classify 20 of the elements. We used cards that had information about the elements, including their symbols, atomic mass units, states of matter, and other interesting properties. We used our knowledge of dichotomous, categorical, and continuous classification strategies and applied these strategies to classify the elements using several different schemes. Students even learned how to combine these different forms of classification into a hierachical classification scheme. We saw that there is no one right way to classify elements, so even Nobel-prize level science like ordering the elements into a periodic table can be done many different ways. The right way of classifying things depends on what you are using the classification for, so the possibilities are endless!



Phillip has a BS and MS in Biology from Western Washington University, and is currently earning a PhD in Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England. His research interests are in tropical rainforest ecology and animal-plant interactions. He will be doing his doctoral dissertation research on tropical seed dispersal ecology in the montane rainforests of Rwanda. Phillip has taught though various adjunct positions at several colleges in New England, teaching biology, ecology, earth science, environmental science, and general science at Babson College, North Shore Community College, Wheelock College, Merrimack College, and Mount Ida College.

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