Bean Classification

Bean Classification Activity: Science and Logic

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Bean Classification

Remember the candy classification post from a couple months ago?  My logic classes at co-op did a similar activity with 15-bean soup mix.

Talking About Taxonomy

Before jumping into the bean classification activity, we talked about plant and animal classification.  I showed them a pictorial example of how animals are classified and then further classified until each animal is eventually in it’s own category.

The Activity

Each student was given a small pile of beans – approximately 50-60 beans with at least one of every variety in the pile.  (I allowed my middle school group to work in teams of two or three students.)

I challenged them to create a classification system for their beans, making sure each bean ended up in its own category in the end.  They were asked to use any characteristics they wished to separate the beans, with only two rules:

  • use creative characteristics (not simply colors)
  • don’t break every bean down into its own group in the first step

With each new separation based on a new characteristic, they were expected to note it on a chart so that, in the end, they could tell me the full “taxonomy” of each bean.

Ex: Bean -> small -> round -> flat -> green -> split pea

Differences in the Charts

Each  bean classification chart was unique because each student (or group of students) began with different characteristics of separation.  So, when one person first separated the beans into large and small groups, another student might have used the categories of dark and light or oval and round.

I used this opportunity to discuss how Carolus Linnaeus “invented” the modern classification system of plants and animals in the 1700’s, but scientists even today don’t always agree about exact placements in the taxonomy.

We decided to create a “scientists roundtable”.  Everyone went around the table and told the first characteristic they chose to separate the beans.  If four out of five people (or groups) all used the characteristic of shape, we voted to make that the “official” first level of characterization.  If two people used one characteristic and three people used another, each person had to “argue” their case for using that characteristic and then we all voted as to the “official” characterization.  We continued through each level of the taxonomy in this manner until we came up with an “official scientist certified bean taxonomy”.

The kids all loved this activity!  Besides science and logic, it was a great lesson in chart making, debate and cooperation!

Don’t worry if you don’t have the opportunity to do this with a class of students, it works great with one or more at home, too!

More Co-op Class Ideas

Read here to learn more about my co-op logic class.

Read here to see my suggestions for upper level co-op classes.

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  1. We are doing Botany at the moment using Apologia. I really love how students look so engaged in the classification activity in your co-ops. Thanks for sharing.

  2. My high school girls at co-op that year were the most joyful bunch of girls! I {heart} them!

  3. Do you happen to have a syllabus or lesson plans describing how you used these resources? Did you start with one book then start another? Or did you randomly pick from all of them what you wanted to do each week? This looks so interesting. I have been trying to nail down an idea for a co-op class.

  4. So sorry. I meant to leave this comment on your logic co-op class blog post.

  5. Leah, do you mean the resources from this post about my logic classes? If so, I did randomly pick from several resources each week depending on their interests and abilities. Typically, we learned and practiced a logical fallacy & did some logic puzzles each meeting. Unless I brought logic games. On game days, we didn’t have time for other lessons, too. Let me know if I didn’t answer the question you were asking.

  6. No worries. I figured it out. 🙂

  7. Thank you, Cindy. You did answer my question.

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