Our first visit to the thrombolites with children.

Thrombolites are often described as “living rocks.” They are described this way because scientists tell us they are microbial communities that photosynthesise.

On today’s visit, not everyone is convinced about the thrombolites’ liveliness:

“They don’t move, they don’t talk, they don’t have eyes … they don’t live,” someone says.

“They just look like rocks to me,” says someone else.

But others convey an implicit sense of aliveness:

“They are having a bubblebath!”

“Some are joined up- maybe it’s a mum and baby”

“Look, you can see their faces!”

“They don’t like all the people here. They can’t sleep.”

“Some of them have holes in them – maybe that is how they breathe.”

“Maybe the thrombolites put their shell over their head – like a turtle.”

What is life? What is alive?

In Euro-Western cultures, children’s animism and anthropomorphism of inorganic things like rocks is often discouraged; attributing liveliness to rocks goes against the Cartesian mind-matter dualism that separates living and non living in Euro-Western worldviews.

Thrombolites trouble notions of living and nonliving. What happens, we wonder, if we resist categorising the world into living and nonliving?