While TFiW is more focused on evolution and decent with modification, my class was currently focusing on a more ecological unit – what roles do different organisms have in an ecosystem, how do they interact and how do we classify them.
Previous lessons had gone through self-made classification schemes, traditional classification schemes (e.g. The Classical Greek), and scientific classification schemes. The two scientific classification schemes were taught in my classes.Biological classification (Linnean/5 Kingdom/Taxonomy) Organisms are assigned into tiered groupings according to shared characteristics. All complex multicellular organisms that consume other organisms are called Animals; All animals with backbones are Vertebrates; All vertebrates with fur and mammary glands are mammals. The major tiers are Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.
Trophic dynamics (Ecological niches/Food chains and webs) Organisms within an ecosystem are assigned a specific role according to their position in the food chain. Organisms that create their own energy are known as producers. Organisms that eat other living things are known as consumers. Primary consumers eat the producers, while secondary consumers eat primary consumers. There are also decomposers that process dead and waste materials so they can be reused by the producers. Producers make their own energy so are called autotrophs. Consumers and decomposers get energy from multiple sources and are called heterotrophs.
To use these with the design-an-organism activity, the class agreed upon an environment and then each group was assigned a trophic niche and had to set about designing an organism to fill that niche. Afterwards they would have to present it to the class and attempt to classify it according to scientific taxonomy.
In addition to be given different trophic niche, each group was given a different medium with which to create their masterpiece – pencils, crayons, collage, and craft (I avoided paints too much mess). What I had really wanted was to give each group (or even each student) a copy of Spore: Creature Creator to push up my ICT integration level.
Sadly, despite one of my supervising teachers having copy, it was only one. The combination of EQ IT policy and EA’s crippling DRM meant after two weeks, I had it installed on a single computer in the school and available for only one user account. It still provided a good way to demonstrate the task concept, and also a reward for those students who worked hard and completed the task early.
Some groups had created chimeras – combining the body parts of different animals they new – which then lead to difficulty in the second part of the task (is a half elephant-ladybug an insect or mammal? how do we tell?). Other groups worked pretty well to create some original concepts such as a grass that squawks like a parrot to ward of predators, a crocodile with brightly coloured feathers to attract fish, and a giant man eating snail.