Basic Systems Questions

I am a self-professed “systems nerd”.. I love systems thinking, conduct professional development on systems thinking, and am constantly on the lookout for new tools and resources regarding systems. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you another tool from the incomparable Tom Hathorn (a fellow systems nerd).. The Basic Systems Questions Framework. This one-pager represents the basic systems questions that relate to all levels K-12:

1. Parts– What are the most important properties? What are their functions?

2. Whole–  What is the system’s function? How is this different from any parts?

3. Interactions– What are the important connections? What actions occur between parts?

4. Beyond- What is beyond the system boundary? What are the system inputs and outputs? How does it interact with other systems?

This sheet can be used to examine physical systems such as a pendulum, a living system such as a plant, or an Earth/Space system such as a model of Earth’s tectonic plates. This resource directly supports WA Science Learning Standards and may be useful as we transition to systems as a cross cutting concept in the Next Generation Science Standards.

Click HERE to download a copy of the Basic Systems Questions sheet- this tool will be added to the next version of the K-5 Systems Handbook. Enjoy- and I’ll be interested to hear how you plan to use this in the fall.


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