Scientific Literacy

As a keen birdwatcher, Miss 5 knows the scientific names of a few of her favourite species.  The first one she learned was Trichoglossus haematodus – the scientific name for a Rainbow Lorikeet.  The second was the closely related Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus, or Scaly-breasted Lorikeet.  From this early introduction to scientific names, my daughter discovered that:

  • all living things have a common name and scientific name
  • every different type of living thing has its own special scientific name
  • scientific names have two words (usually)
  • scientific names have funny words that sound different to every-day words
  • animals that are similar might have similar names (eg: first word the same, second word different)

So this week, when we discovered an unusual species of fungi in the yard, I asked the kids this question…

If you were the first scientist to discover this amazing species, what would you call it?

I know – weird, right?!  We discussed its unusual shape, vibrant colour, pungent smell, and “tentacles” while thinking of a name.  Miss 5 said the first word should be Fungus (based on her understanding of scientific names).  Maybe Fungus Octopus? What about Fungus Redstar or Fungus Crazy?  

And then… the game was on!  Armed with a clipboard, crayon and magnifying glass, the kids set about making up names for other fungi they found around the backyard.  They made their own signs and took careful photos of their discoveries.

Here are the, ahem, un-scientific names of species as decided by the SquiggleKids:

Fungus Orangey

Fungus Rosy (named and written by Mr 3)

Fungus Goldiae

Fungus Umbrellus

The kids ran with this activity because it was of interest to them.  (Not all kids would find fungi so fascinating!)  Even my three year old wanted to “write” his own sign, and I loved seeing his purposeful scribble.  This kind of scribble is early writing at its finest.  I especially liked my daughter’s Fungus Umbrellus.  We discussed how the word umbrella sounded like an everyday word, but umbrellus sounded like a “science” word.

Both kids were so proud of their efforts too, and couldn’t wait to show SquiggleDad their discoveries. I think I have a couple of young naturalists on my hands!

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3 thoughts on “Scientific Literacy

  1. Brilliant! I just started talking to my 7-year-old about scientific names. This is such a great way to make it fun & more relevant for kids.

  2. What a fabulous post! My oldest child didn’t start talking until he started to learn all the long names of dinosaurs – it was his special interest and pulled him into the world of language. I love the focus on ‘scientific literacy’.

  3. Wow I thought kids that understood and could pronounce their favorite dinosaurs were amazing. A 5 yr old that knows Trichoglossus haematodus is doing very well indeed. This is a terrific idea, and we have a heaps of moss and fungi around here too.

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