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Tomato - Fruit or vegetable Capability: Use evidence NoS achievement aims: Investigating in science Contextual strands: Living world Level : 2,3

Author: K.E. Anderson. Connected 2, 2000, pages 24-26

This resource illustrates how a Connected article can be used to provide opportunities for students to strengthen their capability to use evidence to support ideas 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.

L1 & 2:

Extend their experiences and personal explanations of the natural world through exploration, play, asking questions, and discussing simple models.

L3 & 4:

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

Living World


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.

L1 & 2:

Recognise that there are lots of living things in the world and that they can be grouped in different ways.

L3 & 4:

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

Learning focus

Students use evidence to support their ideas.

Learning activity

This short article discusses the characteristics of fruit and vegetables. It includes a check sheet of features of common fruits and vegetables and a dictionary (rather than a scientific) definition for fruit and vegetables.

Adapting the resource

  1. Reordering the reading of this article will help focus students to think about the evidence required to answer the question."Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?"
    • Read together the introduction on page 24.
    • Discuss with students whether they think a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, and their reasons. (Get them to justify their ideas by asking "Why do you think that?")
    • Either give the students the definitions for fruit and vegetables on page 26, or get them to look them up for themselves.
    • Students then use the definitions to decide which foods are fruit and which are vegetables. Ask, “How do you know?”
    • Ask, “Is a tomato a fruit or a vegetable?  How do you know?”
    • Read and discuss the rest of the article.
  2. Scientific knowledge is an important aspect of developing a capability. To decide whether corn is a fruit or a vegetable, students are likely to need a deeper scientific understanding of the role of flowers and seeds in the reproductive process to be able to recognise that corn kernels are seeds. This could be a good chance to discuss how the more knowledge you have the more likely you are to recognise evidence that is available. Ask:
    • Do you think corn is a fruit or a vegetable?
    • What other questions might we need answered before we can decide?

What’s important here?

Science is a way of explaining the world. In science explanations need to be supported by evidence that is based on, or derived from, observations of the natural world. 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.)

Sometimes in science words have meanings that are different from their everyday meanings. For example, tomatoes and corn would usually be considered vegetables in everyday contexts but in science they are fruit. If you want to follow up on this idea, you will be providing an opportunity to strengthen students’ capabilities to make sense of representations about science ideas. (This illustrates how the capabilities overlap.)

What are we looking for?

When students are justifying their decisions, are they using all the relevant evidence needed?

  • If they think a tomato is a fruit does it meet all the criteria for fruit?
  • If they think it is not a fruit are they able to describe which criteria it doesn't meet?
  • Are they able to identify additional questions they need answered to make a decision (e.g., is a corn kernel a seed?)

Opportunities to learn at different curriculum levels

For suggestions about adapting tasks in ways that allow students to show progress in using evidence to support ideas see Progressions .

Exploring further

The activity Is It a Fruit or a Vegetable? (Making Better Sense of the Living World, page 27) could be adapted in a similar way to that described above so that the focus is more on the evidence students are using to justify their decisions.

The following Level 3 Assessment Resource Banks resources are designed to support students to differentiate different categories of animals and to think about the evidence that supports their ideas:

Other resources for this capability

  • Key Words

Connected, plants