Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

The Naturalist's Apprentice: Going Around in Circles

Objective: to investigate the differences and similarities between various organisms


Materials: multiple copies of Going Around In Circles


Vocabulary: Venn diagrams


Comments: Venn diagrams were the brainchild of Englishman and mathematician John Venn during the last century. In simple terms, Venn diagrams use overlapping circles to show relationships between different things. In this edition of the Naturalist's Apprentice, we will use simple Venn diagrams to explore the differences between pairs of organisms and to graphically organize that information and decide who is more closely related to whom.



1. Introduce and explain the concept of a Venn diagram to your students.

2. Distribute copies of Going Around In Circles and have students list characteristics of each organism. Those traits that are different should be placed in the parts of the circles that do not overlap. Those traits that are shared by both organisms should be placed in the overlapping portions of the circles. Students should try to use as many traits as they can think of or for which they can find information.

3. Students now decide which of the three pairs are most closely related to each other.


Going Around In Circles

 Study each of the pairs of organisms and list characteristics that make those organisms different from each other (e.g., three toes vs. two toes). Write those in the unshared parts of the circles. Next, list characteristics that both organisms share with each other (e.g., both have fur). Write those in the shared portions of the circles.

Complete all three pairs and decide, based on these diagrams and the characteristics you chose, which pairs of organisms are most closely related to each other.

Michael Jeffords, Center for Economic Entomology.


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Last Modified 8/16/96

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