Discover Classification

What makes a mammal a mammal?  In Discover Classification, students will discover the science of classification. Students will see, touch and investigate real animal skins, bones and eggs belonging to each of the five vertebrate groups (and some invertebrates!), to identify the common features of each group. They can then apply their knowledge to identify and classify a live animal by studying its features.

Discover classification education sesssion

Age group:  Year 7-9 (KS3, Ages 11-14)

Duration: 45 minutes

Capacity: 35 students

Learning Space: Education Centre 


National Curriculum links:

KS3 Science - programme of study (2014)

Working scientifically

Analysis and evaluation

  • interpret observations and data, including identifying patterns and using observations, measurements and data to draw conclusions



Genetics and evolution

Inheritance, chromosomes, DNA and genes

  • the variation between species and between individuals of the same species meaning some organisms compete more successfully, which can drive natural selection


Intended learning outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • Understand that classification means to group similar things together and that in science this is used to group living things
  • Identify the key features of the five vertebrate groups
  • Discuss reasons why living things are placed in one group and not another
  • Apply their understanding to classify a range of unusual animals


Many objects from the natural world used in this session are loaned to us by HM Revenue and Customs.

Please be aware that though we aim to use a live animal in this session, we do not guarantee that they will be present – animals can fall ill or be unwilling to be handled and their welfare is ZSL’s first priority.  


For this session


Before your visit:

While at the Zoo:

  • Use the activities in this Discover Classification information sheet onsite as part of your visit: PDF icon Pre-visit session info - Discover Classification 2015 (597.03 KB)
  • Take photographs of animals that belong to the different animal groups, to use for activities back at school (see below).
  • Visit B.U.G.S! (map ref. C7) and try to find an animal from each of the animal groups.  Make drawings of or notes on their most important features.  Here are some animals you might find:
Group Animals to find in B.U.G.S.
Mammals Naked mole rat
Fish Coral reef tank - clown fish
Birds Starling
Amphibians Axolotl
Invertebrates Upside-down jellyfish


After your visit:

  • Make a key for identifying the animals at the Zoo, considering their similarities and differences. Photos taken during the trip could be used to enhance the key.