Classification in Biology and Biodiversity

Author: Radha Gopalan
Understanding Classification in Biology and Biodiversity (Middle School)
Preparation time: 2-3 hours
Teaching time: 1 hour

About this module

There is a large variety of living organisms on this planet: plants, animals, insects, fungi, microorganisms etc. and they are found in a wide range of conditions. The term used in biology for variety is diversity and the assemblage of diverse living organisms is termed Biological Diversity or Biodiversity.

Biological classification is the basis for identifying and understanding diversity of life on Earth. Classification using morphology is one of the simplest ways to track Biodiversity - the way in which living organisms live and interact with each other on planet Earth. These interlinked relationships are responsible for supporting human life on earth by providing us with sources of water, food, shelter, clothing, medicine, regulating weather, controlling floods, pollinating crops, cycling nutrients and making the climate on Earth comfortable for life to exist and thrive.

Learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate different ways in which living organisms can be classified and how this helps in understanding Biodiversity.
  • Use discussions to build an appreciation for the role of classification in identification and sorting of living organisms and understanding of Biodiversity.
  • Demonstrate how people identify plants and animals and how this knowledge shows their relationship with their environment.  
  • The factors that influence biodiversity: topography, places to shelter and escape from predators, sources of food, temperature, moisture, sunlight, and thus used in classification by scientists and geographers.

Key readings

  1. Loss of diversity, livelihoods, climate change - “As forests shrank, elephants awoke”
  2. Habitat loss and fragmentation of habitat - A fungus is financing families in Pithoragarh
  3. What happens when you cut down trees? - ‘We believe 15,000 trees have already been cut’
  4. A video on Classification & Biodiversity


Creating Posters Poster 1: A poster with photographs of different kinds of leaves based on shape, venation, edges, arrangement on stem etc. Real samples of leaves will make it more tangible.  Poster 2: A poster with photographs of different kinds of insects based on whether they have wings or not; classifying insects separately from spiders based on number of legs and no antenna and different kinds of bacteria based on shape: cocci, bacilli, spirilla. Something as small as bacteria (for which you need a microscope) and larger organisms like insects and spiders can be grouped based on morphology. Poster 3: A poster with photographs of different biomes e.g., tropical forest, desert, lake, snow-clad mountains etc. to how how scientists and geographers try to understand larger areas on Earth by grouping them based on the conditions in the area (rainfall, type of soil, temperature and the kind of living things present).  Poster 4: A “Did You Know?” Chart with some facts about classification and biodiversity. This can be used to share a couple of historic facts about modern classification systems and their connection to India followed by some compelling facts about biodiversity to give students a sense of magnitude. Poster 5: People's Classification Systems (you can use images from PARI stories like Lives and work interlaced with bamboo, Keeping warm with Charar-i-Sharief kangris and Digging up buried treasures in Bangalamedu of non-scientists' knowledge around identification based on usefulness). Introduce the idea that there are other ways by which forest dwellers, traditional healers, physicians, fishers etc., identify plants and animals and how this knowledge shows their relationship with their environment. 

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