Welcome to My Museum (Part 1/3)

20 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


Students will compare and contrast the thinking of Aristotle and Linnaeus in classifying organisms.

Big Idea

Today students will travel back in time to 1775 to become students of Carl Linneaus. There, he will assign them the task to remodel the museum created by his predecessor in 1700.

What Students Will Learn in this Lesson

1 minutes

We start our school year with a two day week. Since I have already had these students in Earth Science, I have a lab safety review on the first two days of school. On our first full week on school, I start the phylogeny and taxonomy unit. Here is an overview of the skills that students will learn in this lesson. Enjoy!




Check for Understanding/Hook

2 minutes


Begin the lesson by having students watch the trailer from Night At The Museum 1.  (I usually start the video at 0:03 and play it until 0:55.)  Ask students the following questions:  

How many of you have been a natural history museum?

What types of items did you see?  

In your opinion, why are natural history museums important?

This dialogue is important because it allows the students to start actively thinking about the role of natural history museums and allows the teacher to gauge what kind of previous background they might have.  

Introduce the essential vocabulary for the day.  Using the Frayer method, have student define taxonomy in the vocabulary section of their lab notebooks. Briefly discuss the role taxonomy plays in understanding the relationships between living things.  

This lesson is intended to be used with Building a Cladogram and Mapping the Tree of Life: Phylogenetic Reconstruction.

Teacher mini-lecture: The Ideas of Aristotle

5 minutes

After polling the class about their knowledge of natural history museums, begin to explain to the students who Aristotle was and how his ideas influenced taxonomy. It would also be important to mention how long Aristotle's ideas were accepted by the scientific community. Knowledge of Aristotle is essential to the lesson because it allows students to start grouping animals in a non-threatening way. They easily see that Aristotle sorted by habitat and no other feature. Until Linnaeus developed his criteria for classification in the mid-1700s, all naturalists followed the ideas of Aristotle.   

Hand out the first challenge. In the first challenge, students are to play the role of curator where they decide how best to display animals based on the ideas of Aristotle. Explain to students that a curator is the person in charge of the collections at the natural history museum.

Present the instructions for the challenge by reading to the students the following scenario help them understand what they will be doing.

"It is the Age of Exploration. The king of your country wants to open a natural history museum so the public can view all the weird and wild specimens that have been given to him. You are to play the role of curator where they decide how best to display the animals based of the ideas of Aristotle."


Student Activity: Designing my Museum

10 minutes

In addition to the Challenge 1 Welcome to My Museum handout, students are given laminated specimen cards to represent the preserved specimens found in the museum. They are asked to design a floor plan for the museum and are given time to arrange the specimens into specific rooms. The room are based on an unifying theme.  

Allow students to move to an area where they have room to perform a card sort of the specimens. They can also be given sticky notes so they may label the groups by the room.  It is important that students identify one characteristics by which they sort their specimens.  Encourage student to also sketch an aerial floor plan of the museum.  For simplicity sake, tell the students that the building is rectangular in shape.  

Student Discussion: Sharing of Student Ideas from Challenge 1

5 minutes

After students have been allowed time to make the museum floor and put their specimens into rooms, bring the class back together for discussion of their discussion.  Ask for student volunteers or randomly draw names. Have students explain their floor plans and more importantly what criteria they used to put the animals into groups.  Guide the students in explaining how their floor plan is based on Aristotle's ideas.  

A video of a sample student response has been added to better demonstrate the process.  A closeup image of a sample room and an image of the entire museum is shown.  A sample of student work is also shown.  

Students may disagree in which rooms certain animals should be placed. Allow they to briefly discuss their reasoning for placement and reinforce the idea that classification changes as more information is acquired.  Then move onto the ideas of Linnaeus.  

Teacher Mini-Lecture: The Ideas of Linneaus

5 minutes

Show students the following video about the work of Carl Linnaeus.   Next, explain that Linnaeus classified living things primarily by anatomy, behavior, and habitat.  Explain that they should his Systema Naturae as a guide on the next challenge.  


The ideas of Linnaeus are important because we still use a modified system based on his ideas of binomial nomenclature.  Most younger students (lower elementary) may group living things using the ideas of Aristotle.  However, older students (middle school) may still group living things using the ideas of Linnaeus.  Over the course of these lessons, students will move their thinking from the ideas of Linnaeus and Aristotle to more a modern taxonomic method of thinking. 

Student Activity: Remodeling the Museum

15 minutes

Hand out Challenge 2: The Great Taxonomy Exhibition to the students. In the scenario, it is 50 years later. Students are then asked to update their museum based on the ideas of Linnaeus. They may have as many rooms in the museum as they feel is necessary, but they must justify their change based on the works of Linnaeus. Students are encouraged to use Linnaeus' Systema Naturae to help them with their remodel. Wikipedia offers a nice summary of Systema Naturae.

Move from student group to student group and check for understanding.  Be available to answer any questions as this portion of the exercise may be difficult for some students.  Refer them back to the genera proposed by Linnaeus. Inquire how Linnaeus' system of binomial nomenclature differs from the ideas of Aristotle.  

Students are taught about animals from an early age. Many have preconceptions about where an animal should be placed in the museum. Allow students to place the animals wherever they think they should as long as they can justify the animal's placement with evidence from Linnaeus' writings. 


Student Discussion: Sharing of Student Ideas from Challenge 2

5 minutes

After students have been allowed time to remodel the museum floor and put their specimens into rooms, bring the class back together. Once time is up, ask for student volunteers or randomly draw names.  Have students explain their floor plans and more importantly what criteria they used to put the animals into groups.  Ask them to explain how their floor plan is based on Linnaeus' ideas.  

Probe to determine if any groups left room in their remodel for the acquisition of new specimens.  If no student groups did, inquire further how students might revise their design to include new specimens.  The teacher might offer some suggestions, for instance, a butterfly collection or a collection of leeches and giant Amazonian earthworms.  

Have the student revise their model (if they did not) to make room for new specimens.  This will probably need to be homework for the evening.  Also, have students revise their model to be more in line with Linnaeus' ideas, if necessary.  If following, Linnaeus' ideas completely, the museum should have six rooms for the animal collection.  Two of the rooms will be empty since there are no specimens in the collection that would fit in the room.  

In the video , one student explains her museum model based on the ideas of Linnaeus, demonstrating the correct classification.  The worksheet that students completed as part of this challenge is shown as a sample of student work.


Putting It All Together: How Scientific Thinking Changes

1 minutes

Students should give a one sentence summary of how Linnaeus' ideas of classification differed from Aristotle's ideas.  (I have students record their responses in their lab notebooks which they leave in the room at the end of the hour.) Before the next class period, read the student responses to check for understanding.