Alive/Not Alive

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Area: Other Areas, Science
Grade Level: Preschool, Primary/Elementary School
Topics: animals, biology, Ethics Environmental Ethics, reasoning
Estimated Time Necessary: 30 minutes or longer depending on how much time you have

Lesson Plan

Practicing reasoning skills
This lesson plan provides an opportunity for young philosophers to practice giving reasons and maintaining consistency in their thinking.
Thinking together about what it means to be alive.
Students will discuss and think about what it means to be alive, what kinds of beings/things we think are alive, and whether it matters if something/someone is alive.


Before the session, write the names of various beings and things on note cards with one per note card. Examples include:

A squashed bug

In the session:

If the students are in a circle on the rug, place three pieces of paper in the middle of the circle. Write “Alive” on one, “Not Alive” on the second and “????” on the third. If they are at desks or in rows, put the three categories on the whiteboard or in another location where they can all see them.

Then, either hand a student one of the prepared note cards and ask them which pile it should go in: Alive, Not Alive, or ???? (for not sure) or, you can hold up the card yourself and have all the students decide where to put the card. In either case, have a group discussion about whether the students think the card was placed in the right stack. If they disagree with where it was placed, have them discuss their reasons. As they go through all the note cards, sorting them into the three categories, they will build some parameters for what constitutes being alive. If you find inconsistencies in their criteria for what counts as being alive or not alive, ask follow up questions to help them refine their thinking.


Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean to be alive?
  • Are there things or beings where it is hard to tell whether they are alive? What would be an example of that kind of thing?
  • How would we go about discovering whether someone or something is alive?
This lesson plan was contributed by: Karen Emmerman, PLATO Education Director, and is based significantly on a lesson plan designed by P4C Hawai'i.