Activity Introduction

boy-rock-photoframeQuick summary: During this lesson students explore dichotomous keys as a means for identifying and classifying living things. They begin by observing living things in the school yard. Following an introduction to dichotomous keys, students will create a key for living things found in the school yard. Finally, students will use the CSIRO Key to Invertebrates to identify invertebrates in the school yard and then create a poster/booklet about school mini-beasts.

This lesson is designed to be taught outside. It contains all the tools required for students to reap the benefits of being outdoors while learning the outcomes of the Australian Curriculum. By spending time outdoors and connecting to nature, students are more likely to care for and conserve nature as adults.

We’ve taken elements of this lesson and adapted them for remote learning. You can find this activity here.


Learning goals:

  • Students recognise different types of dichotomous keys and understand how we use these keys to identify organisms.
  • Students understand how to use and create a dichotomous key.
  • Students recognise how mini-beasts are an important part of our environment and identify actions we can take to conserve mini-beast habitats.
  • Students recognise the mental, physical and academic benefits of completing classroom activities outside.

21st century skills:

biosphere skills

Australian Curriculum Mapping

Content descriptions:

Year 7 Science

  • Classification helps organise the diverse group of organisms (ACSSU111)

Syllabus outcomes: SC4-14LW.

General capabilities: Critical and Creative Thinking.

Cross-curriculum priority: Sustainability OI.2.

Relevant parts of Year 7 Science achievement standards: Students classify and organise diverse organisms based on observable differences.

Topic: Outdoor learning, Climate change, Biodiversity.

Unit of work: Outdoor Learning Unit.

Time required: 60 mins

Level of teacher scaffolding: Medium – oversee activity.

Resources required: Student Worksheet – one copy per student OR computers/tablets to access the online worksheet. Workbooks for recording information. Device capable of taking photos (optional). School yard dichotomous keyCSIRO Key to InvertebratesFacebook Page (optional). Poster/booklet making materials (optional). Extension: Scientific Drawing Guidelines.

Digital technology opportunities: Digital sharing capabilities.

Keywords: Dichotomous key, identification, classification, organism, living things, outdoor learning.

Cool Australia would like to thank The Albert George & Nancy Caroline Youngman Trust – managed by Equity Trustees.

Youngman Trust Logo

Cool Australia’s curriculum team continually reviews and refines our resources to be in line with changes to the Australian Curriculum.


Teacher Worksheet

cc-secondary6-heroTeacher preparation

Overarching learning goal: By participating in this lesson students will recognise different types of dichotomous keys, understand how we use these keys to identify organisms and how to create a dichotomous key. Students will recognise how why mini-beasts are an important part of our environment and identify actions we can take to conserve mini-beast habitats. Finally, students will recognise the mental, physical and academic benefits of completing classroom activities outside.

Outdoor learning information:

Outdoor Learning Series:


To help guide teachers through suggested activities in this lesson, we have developed a series of icons designed to show what types of activities are involved and where these activities may take place (see Learning Activity Key below).

- or - to view worksheets

Student Worksheet

Thought starter: How would life be different if we didn't classify living things?

Part 1. How many living things?

Once you have spent some time observing and counting the living things in the school yard, complete a 'Think Pair Share' activity to help you reflect on your observations by answering the following questions. This means answering the questions on your own and adding your answers to the THINK column. Once complete, share your answer with a classmate and make any amendments to your answers in the SHARE column.




How does classifying organisms help us to organise and order living things?

What are some ways we could classify living things?

How do you think scientists classify living things?

Part 2. Dichotomous keys

When we know the scientific name of the organism we are looking at, it is easy for us to find out how this species fits into the classification system. However, what happens when

- or - to view worksheets

Leave your Feedback

We appreciate your feedback. Let us know what you like or don't like about this activity:

Sorry. You must be logged in to view this form.