Take a look around you.  What do you see?  Do you see a pencil?  What about a window or door?  You might even see a person!  Do you know what all these things have in common?  All of these things take up space.  That's right, even you take up space.  In fact, you're taking up space just by sitting at your desk.

When things take up space, we can measure it by what is called mass.  All things on this planet have mass.  On Earth, we can tell that something has mass when it is heavy, because gravity pulls stuff down.  A building has mass.  A bus has mass.  Even a tiny ant has mass because gravity holds it down.  We call something matter if it takes up space and has mass.  Everything around you has matter, even things you cannot see.

I tell you I matter. I may be small, but I matter.

Can you see the sound a firecracker makes?  No.  But that doesn't mean you can't hear the Bang! Bang! Bang! sound fireworks make. You can't always see matter, but that doesn't mean it's not there.

You may not know it, but a river has matter.  The rocks at the bottom of the river are made of something and take up space, and so do the fish as well.  If you live there, all of these different parts make up your home.  You may call your apartment or house, bed, couch and family members your home, but scientists call that your environment.  Your environment is all the living and non-living things that are around you.

This looks like a nice environment to catch fish.

If a fish is swimming in a river and decides it's hungry, it might eat a bug.  Guess what?  That bug is made of matter, too.  What happens to the bug's matter when the fish eats it?  Does it disappear?  No!  When something is transferred, it moves from one place to another.  When the fish eats the bug, all of the bug's matter is transferred to the fish.  The fish uses some of it as food and the other parts. . .  I think you know what happens to the other parts. . .

Just looking for some bugs to transfer into my stomach.

In an environment, both the living and non-living things trade matter with each other.  That might be a bug, a fish, the dirt, a tree, a river, or even a human.  Even though you were born a little baby, you still continue to grow bigger and bigger each day, right?  That's because you take in stuff from the things around you to grow big and strong.

Food is one of the things that makes you grow and gives you energy.  Have you ever eaten a salad?  What about a hamburger?  Well, guess where those two things come from?  They come from a plant and a cow.  Those living things have to eat too, just like you.  Plants make their own food with sunlight air and water.  Cows eat grass, and grass has matter.  The cow takes in the matter from the grass when it eats the grass and then this stuff is transferred to you when you eat a hamburger.  The stuff that makes you is some of the same stuff that made the grass.

It never goes away!  Even when things die, the parts that are left are used by other living things who break it down into something plants can use again.  This happens over and over.  Living things trade matter with their environment and then take it back.  A cycle is something that repeats over and over.  Matter keeps getting traded from one thing to another, living to non-living and back again.

That means that when you die, the matter in your body doesn't go away; it's just transferred to another thing in the environment.  The stuff in your body has to go somewhere; otherwise the world would be a VERY stinky place.  It goes in a cycle.  The things around you reuse everything that makes up your body after you die.  Right now, you are using reused stuff: your lunch, your desk, even whatever you are reading this on is made up of stuff that was used before!  As weird as it sounds, the grass, the dirt, or the trees where your body might be buried will use the matter from your body in some way or another.

So the next time you decide to measure how much you have grown, remember that matter is one of the things that keeps you growing taller and taller every day.  Since matter is transferred between living and non-living things in different environments, it never really goes away.  Matter just goes in a cycle.  Everything that takes up space in this world has matter.


Chem4Kids.com "Matter is the Stuff Around You." 2013. Chem4Kids.com. http://www.chem4kids.com/files/matter_intro.html

Kids.Net.Au "Definition of environment." 2013. Kids.Net.Au.  http://dictionary.kids.net.au/word/environment