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|Traits of Life: What Does It Mean to Be Alive?|
The following California State Science Standards are relevant to this Pathway:
This Pathway uses questions to introduce students to fundamental concepts of life. These questions are open-ended, for the most part, and are meant to make students think and ask more questions. The classroom may be a good space to engage students in discussion, both before and after their visit to the museum, and to have them begin designing experiments to answer testable questions. Students may refer back to their notes from the Exploratorium to guide them in further learning about the Traits of Life.
Before Your Visit
How do you know that you are alive? List some examples of things that you can observe about yourself or others.
The motivation behind this question is to have students begin exploring a very complex question by making simple observations.
During Your Visit
Please plan for unstructured time during your field trip. Leaving about half of your total field trip visit unstructured allows students to follow their own interests while exploring the museum.
1. Groups of 2 or 3 work well for this Pathway.
Sometimes it's easy to tell that something is alive but hard to explain why. Sometimes it's not easy to decide whether or not something is alive. We can start by making observations. If you come up with any questions, write them down.
At some point, go to the Cheek Cell Demonstration.
Now that you have seen cells in your cheeks, where else do you think
you might have cells? If you look at any part of yourself under the
microscope, you’ll see cells—our bodies are made entirely
of cells. Can you think of any living things that might not be made
of cells? How can you test to find out? Can you think of anything else
that all living things have in common?
Billions of years ago, bacteria emerged as one of the very first living things on earth.
Classroom Discussion: Is there any one way to categorize living and nonliving things? For example, are all things with color alive? Are all things that move alive? Is there anything about the organisms you have looked at so far that they all have in common (i.e., they’re made of cells)? How do our past experiences help us understand what is alive?
Take a close look at what is going on inside the box. Make a list of 5 things you find.
2. What do you think is happening to the things in this box?
Classroom Discussion: What is the line between life and death? Is something that is dead different from something that was never alive? Can energy and nutrients for living things still be extracted from things that are dead?
Energy itself is difficult to see, but we can observe signs of organisms using energy.
Living plants use:
In this exhibit, students can see water, light, and
oxygen bubbles (coming off of the leaves).
1. Does it feel warmer or cooler than the air in
the room? __________
The hot pile is usually 100
to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, much warmer than room temperature.
Classroom Discussion: What is the connection between the heat in the pile and the heat we produce when we use energy? Have students do jumping jacks for one minute and talk about whether they feel their bodies getting warmer. When living things use energy, heat is given off as a byproduct.
Classroom Discussion: Are all things that use energy alive? Can something be alive if it never uses energy?
After Your Visit