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Destination: Galapagos Islands Cyber Field Trip

Cyber Field Trip Teaching Guide
Taxonomic Fun: Classifying the Life Around Us

Student activity available at

This interactive activity will be available for students beginning Tuesday, December 8, 1998.

National Science Education Standards
Concepts and Terms
Critical Thinking Questions
Related Activity


The Galapagos Islands are home to some of the most unusual organisms on Earth, many of which we hope to meet on our trip. To find order in the tremendous diversity of life on Earth, the science of taxonomy, or the ordered classification of organisms, was developed. In 1753, Carl von Linnaeus introduced a two-word naming system known as binomial nomenclature, which we continue to use today.


Ability to Make a Scientific Inquiry
5-8: Structure and Function in Living Systems, Reproduction and Heredity, Diversity and Adaptation of Organisms
9-12: Biological Evolution


  1. To develop skill in using biological classification systems.

  2. To become familiar with binomial nomenclature.


Taxonomists searched for a way to group organisms that would distinguish one species from another and would reflect the relationships that exist between lifeforms. This search eventually led to the development of a systematic classification system known as the Five Kingdom System. In this system, organisms are grouped into one of five kingdoms and are then further subdivided into phylum, class, order, family, genus and, finally, species. Each of these groupings is more specific than the last. For example, a genus may encompass many species.

Binomial nomenclature allows us to assign a two-word name to each organism (e.g., humans are Homo sapiens).


  • printouts of photographs below
  • scissors
  • glue or tape
  • 3 x 5 index cards
  • pen


In this activity, you will be creating your own classification system.

  1. Print out a copy of the various organisms pictured below.

  2. Cut out each organism and tape or glue the picture to a 3 x 5 index card.

  3. Separate the organisms into two groups that are similar in some way.

  4. Identify the subdivisions with a category name and indicate the name on the bottom of each card.

  5. Now separate each group into two subdivisions of species that have more specific like characteristics.

  6. Continue to make subdivisions until each organism is in a category by itself.
photograph of baby seal photograph of crab
photograph of bear photograph of blue footed booby
photograph of butterfly photograph of cat
photograph of bat photograph of elephant
photograph of frog photograph of goldfish
photograph of gull photograph of flower
photograph of iguana photograph of leaf
photograph of owl photograph of fern
photograph of mushroom photograph of leopard
photograph of penguin photograph of tarantula
photograph of lemur photograph of raccoon
photograph of flamingo photograph of Alan Alda (human)
photograph of shark photograph of ant


  • On what basis did you initially separate organisms?

  • After the initial grouping, what characteristics did you use as distinguishing factors?

  • Specify the kingdoms that were noted in your separations.

  • In terms of shared characteristics, what happens as you make more subdivisions?

  • What phyla were represented in your groupings?

  • What classes were represented in your groupings?


In the More Galapagos Classroom Activities section, you will find an additional activity about Darwin's finches and Identifying Organisms with a Taxonomic Key.


Scientific American Frontiers
Fall 1990 to Spring 2000
Sponsored by GTE Corporation,
now a part of Verizon Communications Inc.