Our next extended school-wide theme is “Systems”. A system is simply defined as a set of parts forming a complex whole. It is a rich theme in that it can be taken in many different directions.
Systems thinking has become more and more talked about in the education world, and for good reason. It encourages students to go beyond learning facts to asking questions and making conclusions. We explore how things may change under difference circumstances, and specifically look at relationships. We look at connections and wonder what would happen if just one tiny part of the whole was changed – what might happen? What would be affected, and how?
Elementary-aged students are capable of engaging in systems thinking, although it is unusual for schools to introduce these concepts until middle or high school. It goes beyond a simple recall of facts and includes evaluation and higher-order thinking. Chris (one of the 3rd/4th grade teachers) introduced me to a book called When a Butterfly Sneezes: A Guide for Helping Kids Explore interconnections in Our World Through Favorite Stories. I’ve used this as a guide to help me introduce the concepts of systems through children’s picture books
In nature, systems thinking examples include ecosystems. Various elements – water, plants, air, and animals – work together to survive or perish. In this class, our young scientists will explore a mini-ecosystem – the tree. We will learn, among other things, how people, animals, insects and the environment depend on the tree.
Other learning outcomes include:
· to identify the parts of a system (in this case, a the ecosystem of a tree)
· to identify simple relations between the various components of the system
· to recognize hidden interrelationships not seen on the surface
· making generalizations
· making predictions – what will happen in the future?
I have collected many books to share, including:
· Tree of Life: The World of the African Baobab
· This Tree Counts
· Around One Log: Chipmunks, Spiders, and Creepy Insiders
· Forest Bright, Forest Night
· One Small Place in a Tree
· A Log’s Life
· The Busy Tree
· The Ecosystem of a Fallen Tree
· The Lorax