Systems Literacy

Expand/Collapse Systems Literacy


Science standards now feature Systems and System Models as a crosscutting concept. This collection will show you how students at all grade levels can better understand the systems in their environment and how you can use systems literacy tools to work with your students in science and in other domains.

  • Teaching About Systems

    This STEM professional development module for teachers guides you through the basics of systems thinking and shows how you can integrate systems literacy across the grades and across disciplines, including STEM and social studies. It features systems educator Linda Booth Sweeney, and leads you through the process of identifying a system, establishing system boundaries, examining trends of behavior over time, and looking at causal loops. It provides examples of how to use media to introduce systems at each grade band in support of the Next Generation Science Standards. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: K-13+
  • Understanding Dynamic Systems

    This self-paced interactive lesson guides students through the process of identifying and analyzing a system. Students cover systems thinking basics and then examine the dynamics of soil health through videos and online exercises that help them make the system visible using tools such as causal loop diagrams. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • What Are Systems?

    In this Just-in-Time video from WGBH, systems educator Linda Booth Sweeney considers what is a system and what’s not, what systems do, and why understanding systems is important. Systems and systems models are a cross-cutting concept in the Next Generation Science Standards. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Understanding Causal Loops

    In this Just-in-Time Professional Development video, systems educator Linda Booth Sweeney describes how systems thinking supports the Next Generation Science Standards and provides an example of how to use diagrams to help analyze systems behavior. The example she uses is a social studies or engineering topic about how building new roads to relieve traffic congestion can have unexpected consequences. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 5-12
  • Mangroves as a System

    Investigate how a mangrove functions as a system, using a video "Clem Marvels at a Mangrove" from PLUM LANDING. The mangrove system consists of the trees, the animals that live in the mangrove forest, and the water's edge environment where the mangrove grows. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: K-5
  • Kelp Forest: A Systems View

    Examine predator-prey relationships in this system-oriented resource featuring a video from Cyberchase, "An Urchin Matter." Something has gone terribly wrong in Big Bay. The kelp plants that live there are dying. In the video, the CyberSquad journeys to a nearby bay to find clues to the interrelationships among bay species. Who is eating what, and with what result? This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 3-5
  • Healthy Soil Systems

    This resource considers soil as a system. When plants naturally decay, their nutrients return to the soil and keep it healthy. This video from Nourish, featuring author Michael Pollan, explains how soil health can decrease over time unless harvested plants are composted and returned to the soil. The support materials cover systems litearcy concepts of causal loops and stocks and flows. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Arctic Climate: A Systems View

    This resource presents a way to understand some of the issues of climate change from a systems perspective. The video segment illustrates how ocean currents that circulate around the planet redistribute heat and moderate climate and how climate change in the Arctic could have consequences throughout the world, through modification of thermohaline circulation, changes in Earth's overall albedo, and the release of carbon dioxide and methane from permafrost and the methane hydrate layer. The video was adapted from the National Film Board of Canada. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Exponential Growth

    Learn about the systems literacy concept of exponential growth as a type of reinforcing feedback, using "Chess Wager, a video from Cyberchase in which Harry’s friend explains how putting a penny on one square of a chessboard and then doubling the amount on each subsequent square could generate a tremendous amount of money over time. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Westward Expansion: A Systems Approach to History

    Examine how to apply systems thinking to social sciences, by looking at maps of westward expansion in the U.S. in the 1800s. This resource incorporates systems literacy tools such as trend graphs and causal loop diagrams to analyze how various parts of this historical system affected each other. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 8-12
  • Drawing Connection Circles

    This systems literacy document takes you step-by-step through the process of creating connection circle diagrams. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 3-12
  • Drawing Causal Loop Diagrams

    This systems literacy document takes you step-by-step through the process of drawing causal loop diagrams, using the example of the factors that may influence new highway construction. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Stocks and Flows

    This systems literacy document explains the concept of stocks and flows and show how to create or read a stock and flow diagram. This resource is part of the Systems Literacy Collection.

    Grades: 9-12

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