I have taught this online class several times now, and every time, I realize anew how important the material is. I don’t think it’s just because I wrote the Earth Party curriculum a few years ago. My love of this material goes back to when I taught this to my own kids in our first year of homeschool; it’s important to provide a broad basis for all life on earth.
And beyond that, I remember the first time I heard this information in school, when I was a sixth grader. I remember working hard to memorize all the levels of classification. I had been to a number of zoos and aquariums, and understanding some basic categories helped me learn things like:
- Is algae a plant, or an animal?
- Is a marine sponge a mineral, or an animal?
- Are sea urchins and sea stars related? (Answers can be found at the bottom!)
In Fall, I had such a fun time with my class. Besides talking about the groupings in class, we spent 2 weeks on each kingdom, exploring life in that kingdom. Like homeschooling, I love learning alongside my students. It’s near impossible to know everything about every kingdom. I am not ashamed to be a life-long learner!
Here are some pictures of our in-class labs.
Some things I love —
Students begin to notice life forms they had overlooked before.
One of my students discovered many forms on fungi while on a walk in Northern California. We all were very excited to see how many forms she found!
We explore defining characteristics with greater clarity.
These photos will take some explaining! On the left you will see a mold sample. We’ve all seen mold before, right? What we discussed in class is mold is a form of fungi, which reproduces with spores. The black dots are the spores beginning to emerge. But, the white area on the left shows the mycelial threads that are the heart of the fungi. These threads grow the “growth.” They can be seen underground, and under mushrooms. They are the fungi itself.
On the right is an fly under a microscope. I love how the large eyes and hairs on the body and jointed legs on this arthropod show up in a new way under a microscope!
Students interact and cultivate life forms.
While studying the four major types of plants, to explore flowering plants more closely, one of our activities was to plant 2 seeds and make a prediction about which one will grow first. On the left is the bean seed, and on the right is another type. It’s amazing how the roots are taking over with the bean plant. There is no better way to discuss biology than through hands-on exercises like this Seed Race. Though the class is online, through activities like these, students get a first person exposure to real life as they see it in front of them.
Do you know the other 3 major types of plants? Hint: one involves cones
If you are looking for a fun yet challenging science class for your fourth to sixth grader, look no further!
Here are the details!
This class covers all kingdoms of life including bacteria, fungi, protozoa, plant, and animal kingdoms. Additionally, we discuss 18th century biologist Karl Linnaeus who is considered the father of the modern system of taxonomy.
When: Wednesdays at 1PM (75 minues)
Dates: February 2 -April 27 (12 weeks)
Cost: $290 ($50 discount for private pay)
Materials: See this page for a list of books and supplies
Answers: Though algae is “plant-like” because it photosynthesizes, it is in the protist kingdom (which includes paramecium and amoebas). Marine sponges are porifera, and placed in the animal kingdom. They are amongst the simplest forms of life in the animal kingdom. Sea urchins and sea stars are related; they are both “spiny-skin” invertebrate echinoderms with penta-radial symmetry.
Finally, the 3 other major categories of plants are mosses (reproduce with spores), ferns (reproduce with spores), and conifers (cone bearing plants like pine trees and ancient cycads).