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Elementary Science Education

Living or Biological Clarification


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    • #495

      Bernard Nebel

      Questions have brought to my attention that the category of “Living or Biological” needs some clarification.

      Do look at this in terms of a hierarchy of classification. We have seen that all matter can be divided into three categories: solid, liquid, or gas (Lesson A-2). Another way to classify matter is to divide it into the categories: biological, natural earth, and human Made.

      The “biological” category has three basic subcategories: 1) Things that are currently, actively living/metabolizing, i.e., living plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, etc. Also included here are things that may be in a state of suspended animation, e.g., seeds. 2) The second subcategory of biological things includes dead organisms, and parts of what were once living organisms, e.g, feathers, pine cones. 3) The third subcategory of biological things are exclusive products of living things, e.g., honey, butter, flour, sugar. In other words, living things and biological things are not synonyms; living things are a subcategory of biological things.

      By way of analogy, think of an engine that is running, an engine that is broken down and stopped running, and disassembled parts of an engine. They would all be categorized under “engine,” would they not? “Biological” is equivalent to the “engine.” It includes all the parts, disassembled, or put together into a running functioning organism.

      I wish to avoid using “non-living” as a category, because it makes no distinction between subcategories #2 or 3 of biological, and natural earth materials. This does cause confusion.

      Thank you for your questions and comments. Please ask or comment further.

      Bernie Nebel

    • #948


      Yes, thanks for the clarification!

      The picture on the front cover was confusing me as they have placed many biological items (sub-categories #2 and #3) under the “natural” category. I came here to see if there was any more information to make sure I understood the differences correctly.

    • #3628

      Bernard Nebel

      Good observation. Consider that the cover photo shows that kids’ existing notions may lead to mistakes. However, take this as an opportunity to discuss and clarify the concept further.

    • #3749


      May I ask why have human made as a 3rd category? It seems more useful to have categories that are as mutually exclusive as possible? It also seems like a very anthropocentric view.

    • #3750

      Bernard Nebel

      Thank you for your comment and question, “kunchik”. My effort here is to view the world as a child views it and then to help them gain comprehension and understanding as to what they see. They readily see and interact with living/biological things, natural earth things and materials (rocks, air, water), and they also see and interact with all sorts of things and materials that are made/constructed by humans.

      The core idea of the lesson, however, is to go beyond the simple categorization and get kids to recognize that anything/everything human-made starts with one or more things/materials from the biological or natural earth categories. Nothing can be made from nothing! (See the discussion portion of the lesson.) This is a basic concept that is foundational to all industry and technology. It is also central to the concepts of conservation, preservation, ecology and other areas.
      I welcome further discussion. Bernie Nebel

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