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Activity: Is It Alive?
NGSS Science and Engineering Practices
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas
Table of Contents



  • Table 1.1
  • Table 1.2
  • Box of objects provided by teacher (or class demonstrations of objects)
  • Ruler (optional)
  • Petri dish (optional)
  • Forceps (optional)
  • Magnifying glass (optional)
  • Microscope (optional)



  1. Work with a partner to list at least three criteria (standards or measures) that you believe are necessary for something to be considered alive. If you come up with more than three criteria, focus on the three that you feel are most important.
  2. Take an object out of the box or observe your teacher’s demonstration of the object. If you are able, examine the object with the tools listed as optional in the materials list.
  3. In Table 1.1, write a description of the object. If you know the name of the object, include that as well.
  4. Determine if the object meets the criteria for being alive that you listed in Question 1. Record your answer in Table 1.1.
  5. Did this object change your ideas of what it means to be living? Record how the object influenced your ideas in Table 1.1.
  6. Complete steps 3 to 5 for the rest of the objects.


Activity Questions
  1. Based on your observations, discussions, and completed Table 1.1, make a revised list of criteria that an object should have in order to be classified as alive.
  2. Complete Table 1.2. For each property, think of
    1. one organism that you know is alive that exhibits this property.
    2. one organism that you know is alive that does not exhibit this property.
    3. one object that you know is NOT alive but exhibits this property, or seems to.
Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.