In Washington State, our first of four Science Essential Academic Learning Requirements (EALRs) is Systems. Systems is considered a Cross-Cutting Ability, which means that the standards within the Systems EALR should be embedded in instruction of physical science, Earth/Space science, and life science. Systems thinking provides a unifying concept for learners to make sense of the natural world- from micro to macro:
What are the parts of the system?
What are the inputs and outputs?
What does the whole system do that the individual parts cannot do?
How does energy, matter, and/or information flow through the system?
Unfortunately, most of our current K-12 science instructional materials do not intentionally target systems ideas. It is up to us, as teachers, to bring systems thinking into our existing units of instruction.
I am currently working on a K-8 Systems Integration Toolkit that will be available FREE to teachers and districts online. The toolkit will assemble Washington State science resources from OSPI (standards and assessment), tools developed by districts, sample lessons, information on systems for our own teacher content knowledge, and links to multiple online resources. Below are some of the resources that will be included in the Toolkit.
*Please let me know of any resource on Systems that I’m missing or that you developed and are willing to share.
NSDL Science Literacy Map for Systems– examine how systems ideas progress from K-12
Questions to Ask about Systems– a great 1-pager from Project 2061
Washington State’s Science Standards– see how Systems thinking progresses from K-12
My School as a System– middle school lesson from Science NetLinks
The Bicycle as a System– middle school lesson from Science NetLinks
Cell as a System lesson for high school
exploring systems centers worksheet where students engage with a variety of objects and determine what is and is not a system
Washington State Systems Standards (I use these as an activity where I cut the standards into strips and ask participants to identify systems concepts in the K-12 standards) – sys k-12 extracted white background
Is it a System? Formative Assessment Probe from Uncovering Student Ideas in Science Vol. 4 by Page Keeley. I use this probe often in PD sessions on Systems- uncovers initial understanding of systems and is a great “conversation starter”.
Dr. Art’s Guide to Science– Art Sussman’s book and site provide an easily understood take on Systems Thinking
Systems Thinking OVERVIEW– multiple definitions of systems from various sources
Systems Thinking Framework– a set of frameworks developed by ESD 112
Ladybug Toy System anchor lesson– a sample lesson where students examine a physical system