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Lesson 12
Naming New Species

Students will:
  • Understand the science of taxonomy and the Five Kingdoms of life;
  • Categorize organisms into Kingdoms;
  • Utilize binomial nomenclature defined by Carolus Linnaeus;
  • Create a multi-media presentation illustrating knowledge of a Kingdom;
  • Use Internet resources to collect data and related pictures for research;
  • Provide correct bibliographic annotations to electronic media.


This lesson correlates to the national McREL standards located online at

Standard 6: Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment
Standard 7: Understands biological evolution and the diversity of life

Language Arts
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Standard 2: Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs.


  • A copy of the program Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery (To order, visit ShopPBS)
  • A television and a VCR or DVD player
  • Computers with Internet access and multimedia presentation software, such as Power Point or HyperStudio
  • Lesson 12 Student Activity Sheet

Time Needed

Five to six 45-minute class periods or three 90-minute class periods.

Teaching Strategy

  1. Introduce students to the idea that new species were often difficult for the Corps of Discovery to name and describe by reading the journal entries dates June 30, 1804 and September 6, 1804. These entries illustrate attempts to describe prairie dogs and antelope.

  2. Explain to students that over time, although we have continued to discover new species, naming and documenting them has become easier because of the Swedish scientist Carolus Linnaus. Linnaus developed a method for naming living things called taxonomy. The science of taxonomy groups organisms into five kingdoms: plant, animal, fungi, monera and protist. Linnaus used a method called bi-nomenclature meaning "two names," referring the organism's genus and species. This science was used by the members of the Corps of Discovery, particularly Lewis (i.e. he give the prairie dog the name Cynomys ludovicianus). Give students several specific examples of how this science is still used today.

  3. Before students begin viewing the film, distribute the Lesson 12 Student Activity Sheet and review the directions. Take time to stop and start the film as needed for discussion throughout the viewing process.

  4. Once viewing is complete, students should complete their project according to the steps described on the Lesson 12 Student Activity Sheet. Be sure to review these steps before students begin researching and creating their presentations.

  5. Give students time to create their presentations and prepare to share them.

  6. Provide class time and a format for students to share their presentations.

Assessment Recommendations

  1. Create a scoring guide to assess the quality of the multimedia presentations and the studentís presentation skills.

  2. Create a self or peer evaluation form for students to assess their own work or the work of a classmate based on established criteria.


  1. Since the time of Lewis and Clark, many environmental pressures have affected both the plant and animal kingdom. In the Journals, the Corps mentions enormous herds of buffalo, many grizzly bear, and huge flocks of birds. As you may recall from the video, Jefferson estimated it would take the nation a "hundred generations to fill up the land." Americans did it in less than five. Explore the following questions with your students:

    Remove one of the organisms in the food web. With this animal or plant missing, how does it affect the other organisms in the web?

    Are there places in the U.S. where native plants have been paved over thus reducing the amount of producers? How does this reduction in plants affect the rest of the food web?

    With human populations increasing across the areas Lewis and Clark visited less than 200 years ago, how have increasing numbers of humans affected the food webs?

  2. We all take for granted the world around us that plants, animals, water and sunlight will always be available. Lewis and Clark, in their writing about magpies, antelope and prairie dogs, greatly expanded scientific knowledge of their times, debunked myths, and fueled the fire of curiosity for people of their time. Ask the students:

    Do you, as a student believe that everything on earth has been discovered and defined by science?

    Are all plants and animals classified, labeled, and available for anyone to see?

    If you were sent on a mission to discover new plants and animals, where would you go in the world or, perhaps, the universe?

    How would you make good observations, write your thoughts, and share with others?

    Do you feel the water, plants and animals of your time will be around for your children to enjoy? Why or why not?