Academic journal article Science and Children

Systems and System Models

Academic journal article Science and Children

Systems and System Models

Article excerpt

Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes. It is a framework for seeing interrelationships rather than things, for seeing patterns of change rather than static "snapshots." It is a set of general principles--distilled over the course of the twentieth century, spanning fields as diverse as the physical and social sciences, engineering, and management. --Peter Senge

One of my all-time favorite concepts to teach is Elementary Science Study (ESS 1973), Batteries and Bulbs. (For more about ESS, see my December Editor's Note.) In using this unit of study, we didn't identify the wires, batteries, and bulbs as a system, but we did clearly define the components of what is needed to light a bulb and then utilized that understanding to include a buzzer, brighter bulb, more batteries, and switches.

In a recent NSTA web seminar, Ramon Lopez discussed three elements of systems: components, boundaries, and flows and interactions (Lopez 2013).

1. All systems are made up of components, two or more things that interact with one another. Sometimes they are physical objects like batteries, bulbs, and wires. At other times they are factors that influence the characteristics of the objects like temperature. Individual system components may also be made up of a system (subsystem of the entire system). For example, the wire used in lighting a bulb can be made of one of several types of wire and coverings. …

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