This activity is a great opener in a life science or biology classroom. I use it at the beginning of the year as we discuss what biology is and what it means to be alive. This activity would also be a great first day of school activity as it gets the kids talking to one another and incorporates biology right away!
The kids are given a short story to ready about a martian who is sent to observe life on Earth. He discovers cars and believes them to be alive. THe kids work in groups to generate lists of reasons why someone might think cars are alive and why others would say they are non-living. The kids then continue with part 2, taking on the role of the martian and writing a narrative about 'cell phones' as a life form.
This activity fits right in with common core too! And every year the kids are very engaged, discussing, and learning biology right from the start.