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Soil Animals: Diversity beneath Our Feet Capability: Gather & Interpret data NoS achievement aims: Investigating in science NoS achievement aims: Communicating in science Contextual strands: Living world Level : 3,4

Building Science Concepts, Booklet 6

This resource illustrates how a Building Science Concepts activity can be adapted to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to gather and interpret data in the context of science.

Curriculum Aims and AOs

The Nature of Science strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource

Investigating in science

Carry out scientific investigations using a variety of approaches: classifying and identifying, pattern seeking, exploring, investigating models, fair testing, making things or developing systems.

L3 & 4:

Build on prior experiences, working together to share and examine their own and others’ knowledge.

Ask questions, find evidence, explore simple models and carry out appropriate investigations to develop simple explanations.

Communicating in science

Develop knowledge of the vocabulary, numeric and symbol systems, and conventions of science and use this knowledge to communicate about their own and others’ ideas.

L3 & 4:

Begin to use a range of scientific symbols, conventions and vocabulary.

Engage with a range of science texts and begin to question the purposes for which these texts are constructed.

The Living World strand


Achievement objectives relevant to this resource


Understand the processes that drive change in groups of living things over long periods of time and be able to discuss the implications of these changes.

L3 & 4:

Begin to group plants, animals, and other living things into science-based classifications.

Learning focus

Students observe closely and make inferences based on their observations.

Learning activity

Section 1, Activity 2 (page 10) provides an opportunity for students to differentiate between observation and inference. The activity involves collecting soil animals and then using a key from the centre of the booklet to identify them. There is an emphasis on close observation, because keys direct us to closely observe the different features of animals. The last stage is inferring from the observation the identification of the animal.

Adapting the resource

  1. Work with students to sort their collected animals into groups, starting with the number of legs.
  2. From each group, have them take each animal separately and work through the features to identify the animal. (If students are not familiar with using keys model the process for them.) Ensure that students understand the specialised vocabulary used in the key (e.g., segment, sucker feet, abdomen).

In this initial activity discourage students from just naming the animal (especially familiar ones) – get them to describe what they can see.

  1. Ask students what they think the animal is.
  2. Once students have made an identification, ask “What do you see that makes you think this is a …..?” “Why do you think it is not a ….?”
  3. Where there is not a consensus about the identification of an animal, discuss what is seen differently by various students or what evidence is missing.

When a student identifies an animal ask

When a student cannot identify an animal ask

What makes you think so?

Why can’t you tell?

What information do you think is missing?

Note that the key in this resource is quite complex and soil animals are often quite small and therefore it may be difficult to see their features clearly. If students are struggling, try one of the following strategies:

  • Use a simpler key (see resources in Exploring further).
  • Enlarge the animals using technology such as magnifying glasses, binoscopes or digital microscopes.
  • Use enlarged photographs.

What’s important here?

What counts as evidence in science are observations (direct and indirect) of the natural physical world. Scientists put effort into ensuring they have robust data (i.e., that their observations are accurate). This can involve developing or using observation guides (such as classification keys) that tell in detail what to look for.

Developing an appreciation of what counts as evidence in science supports students to become scientifically literate, i.e., to participate as critical, informed, and responsible citizens in a society in which science plays a significant role. (This is the purpose of science in NZC.)

What are we looking for?

When you ask, “What do you see?”

When you ask, “What do you think?”

Do students limit their answers to things that are observable?

How accurate are their observations?

Do students support their ideas with their observations?

Do they draw on a number of observations (more than one feature) to support their ideas?

Do they eliminate possibilities based on the evidence from their observations?

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in gathering and interpreting data see Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels.

Exploring further

The Assessment Resource Banks item  What is the animal?  asks students to use a key to identify six pictured invertebrates.

The Assessment Resource Banks item  Insect or spider?  provides the main features of both animals, and students use this information to identify which category a number of animals fit, giving reasons.

Canterbury University’s Science Outreach website includes a  resource that involves using a key to identify arthropods and birds on Rangatira Island .

The following Assessment Resource Banks items are useful for encouraging observation to classify plants or animals:

Other resources for this capability


Building Science Concepts, classification