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It's Alive!



It's Alive!
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 5 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.56

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    logy, long-lived, nonliving, happening, non-living, availability, characteristic, bristlecone, lifelike, utterly, repairing, pharaohs, atmosphere, generation, organism, reproduction


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It's Alive!
By Cindy Grigg
  

1     Look around you. What do you see that is alive? Not alive? Sometimes it's a little hard to tell. Make a list of what you see around you that is alive, and make another list of things that are not alive. Now, compare the two lists. What do the things that are alive have in common? How are they different from the things you listed that are not alive? What does it mean to be alive?
 
2     On your list of living things, you might have listed yourself, your pets, and plants. That's a good start, but there are at least two million species of living things that have been identified. "Bio" means life and "logy" means study, so biologists study the science of life. When biologists study the vast variety of over two million species of living things, the question of "What is alive?" becomes a little confusing. Of the three examples above, you and your pets can move, but plants cannot move. Or can they? Have you ever seen a plant growing toward the sunlight? You can talk and respond to others, but your dog or cat can't. Or can they? When your dog gets hot lying in the sun and moves into the shade, he is responding to his environment.
 
3     It is pretty clear to most people that a desk is not alive. Desks are cold to the touch; they don't move on their own; they don't respond to you. It is also clear that cats, dogs, and humans are alive, especially when you see them run, jump, or respond to you. Those are fairly easy examples, right? What about a cell phone or a stick of firewood? Are these things living or nonliving, and how can you tell?
 
4     You know that a cell phone is nonliving, right? But it makes noise and it responds when you press its buttons. That's more lifelike than a desk! What about firewood? Firewood comes from trees, and trees are living. But if a tree dies and is chopped up for fuel, are the logs from that tree nonliving because they are no longer alive? As you can see, the distinction is not always clear. Some inanimate objects have characteristics of living organisms, while many living organisms, on the face of it, seem utterly lifeless.

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