Amazing Stem: Candy Dichotomy


Mrs. Booker is a 7th and 8th grade science teacher at Arthur. A. Libby Elementary and Middle school. She is very passionate about teaching science and providing her students with hands on real world application activities in her science class. She has taught middle school science for fifteen years and she continues to be inspired by her students and their thirst for knowledge and wonderment.

When I teach classification and dichotomous keys to my 7th grade students they often struggle with truly understanding it and it’s importance. Dichotomous keys allow students to identify items that are in the natural world for the purpose of classifying these items into groups using their scientific names.

Over the years I have learned that students are motivated to learn content that they can make a connection with. Last year I decided to introduce classification and dichotomous keys using several different types of candy. Upon entering the room the students observed that there were various types of candies at their table. The students were excited over the smorgasbord of candy. I explained that they had to work in their groups to classify the candies into at least six groups based on the different characteristics of the candy. Students had to work together and draft a procedure for grouping the candy and after grouping the candy the students had to give each candy a scientific name. I would give them an example like Tootis Rollis, or Saltus Taffinia to help them be creative in naming their groups. The last step in this activity asked students to create a dichotomous key and to group their candies. The students were really engaged in the activity because they were excited to work with candy and they were in control of designing and drafting their procedure and scientific names.

“Tell me and I’ll forget, Teach me and I’ll remember, Include me and I’ll learn!”

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