Thanks for sharing this with us. Indeed, in the course of teaching science to young children, we are often surprised by their responses, and it is not surprising that a lot of research has been done on the scientific conceptions and alternative views of young science learners.
With regards to your nephew's answers, here are our thoughts:
1. In the case of a typical science topical test in school, his 2 answers for examples of living things would most likely be marked wrong, while the example of non-living thing would likely to be marked correct.
In our typical science tests, when students are asked to list examples of living things, they are supposed to give examples in the form of common nouns, like tiger, human beings, hibiscus plant, eagle. For example, the answer "orang utan" would be correct, but the answer "Ah Meng" wouldn't be, though Ah Meng is an orang utan, and a very famous one too. Hence, writing his name would be wrong, but writing "human being" would be correct.
As for the answer "Jesus", it would likely be marked wrong as well. However, we are not trying to deny the existence of Jesus Christ in his perspective. Modern scientific knowledge is based on knowledge that is acquired and constructed through the scientific method. To be termed scientific, the method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. Based on this concept of how knowledge is constructed, how phenomena is theorised, and how facts can be proven, we would have to say that the existence of Jesus Christ has yet to be proven through this method, in the sense that no conclusive archaeological findings and physical evidence has been found to prove that he existed. That being said, what cannot be proven by the modern scientific method yet does not mean it is untrue or non-existent. It simply means the current most widely accepted way of defining what constitutes scientific knowledge does not apply to all aspects of our life, especially when it comes to the spiritual aspect of our lives. Even within the science community, there is often more controversies than agreement, and we see terms like pseudo science, because certain proposed theories and beliefs of some forms of existence cannot be proven in the current scientific method.
When we teach children about this seemingly easy topic of "Living things and non-living things", we would tell our pupils that the act of classifying the things around us is very much artificial and it is a system created by humans in our attempt to make sense of our diverse world. It is a form of generalising what we see and know, and the broad categories that we have established is not perfect and we may at times find things that do not seem to fit very well into a specific category. Hence, the act of teaching about our world by trying to group everything into either living or non-living things is too simplistic. It is definitely far from being dichotomous. However, we will tell our little ones -- despite it not being a perfect way of making sense of things all around us, it is generally useful in helping us make sense of most of the things around us
Science is not about just consuming past constructed knowledge. It is also about the constant pursuit of discovery or creating new knowledge, so maybe a better way of classifying things may emerge someday.
The above explains why we would not mark the two examples of living things correct -- that he should write "human being" instead of his name, and that Jesus, by the current scientific method, has yet to be concluded to exist. So we cannot mark it correct, yet
As for the answer "apple" as a non-living thing, it is equally tricky. That is why last time, our syllabus includes 2 other categories -- "once alive" and "never alive". Based on that, apple would not be a living thing but once alive, since it was part of a living thing -- the apple tree. The apple is not a clear cut example of living thing, but if he had written "apple seed", then it would be marked correct, as the apple seed will grow into a new plant, which is a living thing. We usually advise our pupils ( at least for exams sake) to avoid writing parts of things. For example, pupils will write hair, fingernails as examples of living things, and some will think that the hair growing on our head is considered a living thing, but the second it is snipped off by the hairdresser, it has become a non-living thing. We try to pre-empt and encourage them to write more widely acceptable answers, but we also explain to them why we would not be confident that all science teachers would unanimously accept certain answers they proposed. Generally, we find that when we try to explain to them why, they are more receptive.
We hope this sharing has been useful