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Working to develop Systems Citizens in K-12 Education


It really does take a village!

We are excited to announce a new partner in our collective efforts to develop systems citizens. PBS Learning Media, with support from the Kendada Foundation, has launched a pilot Systems Literacy collection. The online collection is designed to support the development of systems literacy awareness and skills in K-12 students and teachers.

Aligned with Next Generation Science standards, the collection includes six, re-purposed PBS media resources covering a wide range of topics, from Westward Expansion to soil health, to climate science, etc. In addition, there will be two introductory videos by systems educator, Linda Booth Sweeney, with learning modules designed for teachers and high school students.

Becoming Systems Literate, an introductory webinar, will be offered on January 29th.

Explore the collection or register for the webinar.

DynamiQueST: A showcase of student projects that utilize critical thinking skills to analyze complex dynamic systems in a relaxed environment, free from "winner/loser" constraint.

DynamiQueST 2015

May 29, 2015
Salisbury Labs
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, MA

Sponsored by Boston Area Systems Thinking Educators this event is for students ages 8-18 to showcase their work using their ability to analyze and to clearly communicate critical thinking using the tools and methods of system thinking and system dynamics.

Download the brochure


  • Give students the experience of being coached on their projects by experts in the systems field, teachers, and other students, in a helpful and supportive manner.
  • Permit teachers from different schools to see evidence of student work communicating critical thinking using systems thinking and system dynamics (ST/SD).
  • Provide a venue for teachers and kids to network and learn from each other.
  • Showcase student work for the wider community.
  • Have some fun and celebrate with kids!

Learn more...

Behind Closed Gates: Potential dynamics when one group or individual is given complete authority over another

This simulation is loosely based on an experiment that was conducted at Stanford University in 1971. Phillip Zimbardo wanted to see how typical people would act if they were asked to take on roles of prisoners and prison guards for a two-week period. The experiment was stopped after only six days because of escalating, abusive behavior of the guards and concerns about the well-being of the prisoners.

In the simulation, students take on the role of a social scientist, trying to understand how a similar situation (with guards having complete control over prisoners) can create specific human responses, such as fear, repression, and resistance. They can then compare this situation to a host of other similar situations, fictional or real. Try the simulation.


VISUAL TOOLS FOR STUDENT PROJECTS: Communicating Critical Thinking

From the first chapter:
Creating the question or the topic for student projects can be the most agonizing part of the whole process. Having students brainstorm ideas, either singly or in groups, is productive. These are a few questions and guidelines that may help. Encourage students to stay within the general subject area of the project assignment. Read more...

Built as a collaboration between The Creative Learning Exchange and The Gelfand Family Charitable Trust. This booklet is designed to help teachers and students create and complete all kinds of projects (in science and other curricula) which clearly show and explain the critical thinking incorporated within the project.

After exploring how to create a question, the booklet continues in other key areas such as: communicating thinking with visual tools, how to use the visual tools of systems thinking, and assessing Visual Tools for Communicating Critical Thinking.

Download the booklet and explore!




A Systems Story


A short introduction to key systems thinking concepts.

More videos....





Recent Newsletter Articles

Innovation Academy Charter School Reaffirms a Systems Approach to Education
by Megan Lovely

It is 7:55 a.m., and Greg Orpen takes his usual post outside the auditorium, greeting students and faculty and ushering students off to their first-period classes. Orpen, who has been part of the IACS faculty for fourteen years, has always been a positive, familiar face in the community. With his promotion to Head of School in November 2013, Orpen is able to shine in a new light. Throughout the Head of School search process, a repeated theme discussed by the Search Committee was the desire to return to the school's original charter, and within that, systems thinking and system dynamics.

Read more in The Exchange...


More articles at the CLE about IACS.


Coming this Spring...
DynamiQueST returns!

Educators in the Boston, Massachusetts area have been getting together for a couple of years to share stories and best practices, and hone their skills as teachers and advocates for the critical thinking and learner-centered learning that comes out of the use of ST/SD in the classroom/organization. In the initial gathering this fall, the idea of a project fair centered on coaching student work that showcases the use of ST/SD tools and concepts reemerged.

Read more in The Exchange...


An Old Idea Comes Back to Life as a New Resource/Simulation

Behind Closed Gates: Potential dynamics when one individual or group is given complete authority over another
by Anne LaVigne


Approximately twenty years ago, a few middle school teachers saw a connection between a model that Barry Richmond had created to represent the dynamics of Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment and a book they were studying with their classes, Animal Farm. The relationships of power found within a prison structure seemed very similar to those that played out within the book.


The teachers ran with that idea and created a simulation interface for an adaptation of Barry's model that connected relationships among the characters to relationships between prisoners and guards. For a number of years, these middle school students read the book and used the simulation to explore those relationships and connect them to similar, real-world situations. The teachers have since retired and the students are now all grown. The simulation went out of use and sat dormant for many years.

Read more in The Exchange...


Download The Exchange vol 23.3


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