Shoe Dichotomous Key

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In this activity (on page 2 of the PDF under GPS: Cactus Activity), learners will develop their own version of a tool used by biologists, a dichotomous key, by collecting all their left shoes. Learners brainstorm different characteristics and decide how to divide the pile into two groups with a common characteristic. A chart should be made as they continue to divide each group in two until each shoe has its own group. Learners use the chart to identify each person's shoe. Relates to the linked video, DragonflyTV GPS: Cactus.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
Under 5 minutes

Learning Time:
10 to 30 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
free per group of students

Age Range:
Ages 8 - 14

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per group of students)

  • a group of kids wearing shoes
  • chalkboard/chalk or whiteboard/marker or chart paper/pencil!


  • Life Sciences
    • Diversity of Life
      • Classification
    • Ecology
      • Populations
  • Mathematics
    • Data Analysis and Probability
      • Data Analysis
      • Data Collection
      • Data Representation
  • The Nature of Science
    • The Scientific Process
      • Asking Questions
      • Gathering Data
      • Communicating Results


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • see color
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


Components that are part of this resource:

This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


Source Collection

  • DragonflyTV


  • All rights reserved, Twin Cities Public Television, Inc., 2006

Funding Source:

  • National Science Foundation, 515566