Species identification tasks are a prerequisite for an understanding of biodiversity. Here, we focused on different educational materials to foster the identification of six European reptile species. Our educational training unit was based on natural plastic models of six species and pupils either used an illustrated identification book or a dichotomous key. 71 secondary school pupils (6th graders) from four classes participated in our study and received a hands-on lesson about the identification of these species. 37 of them were aided by an identification book, and 34 received a dichotomous key. We found a significant increase in identification skills immediately after and with a delay of four weeks in both treatment groups. Further, we found no differences in achievement between both groups nor did we detect differences in the emotional variables (well-being, interest, boredom) or in the difficulty of the task. We propose that species identification should be taught in everyday school life using models and identification materials that allow a learner-centred environment.
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