Part 1: Systems BasicsYou may complete Part 1 of this lesson, if possible, in a larger space such as a cafeteria, auditorium, or schoolyard. If this isn’t feasible, you can prompt students with a rule that is more conducive to your space.
- Send three students to wait out in the hallway.
- Tell the rest of the class that they will be moving around the room. Rather than moving randomly, they should work as a group to decide on a rule that will govern their movements. For instance, without telling one another, each student could pick two other students that they must avoid. If those students move toward them, they must back away.
- After the class has had time to decide upon their rule, invite the three students in the hallway back into the classroom.
- Tell those three students that the class will move around the room according to a particular rule. It is up to those three students to figure out what rule is dictating the group’s movement.
- Give the three “observers” about two minutes to watch the class’ movement. After two minutes, ask the observers what they think the rule is.
- If you wish, repeat with a new rule and a new set of observers.
- Instruct students to return to their seats.
- Ask the observers what they found most challenging. Also, ask them to describe how they went about trying to figure out the rule. Were they looking for particular features? Were they watching particular people?
Part 2: Describing Systems
- After a few minutes of discussion, tell the class that they were acting as a system. Ask them to define the term “system”.
- Inform the group that generally speaking, a system is simply a set of parts that relate in some way to form an interconnected whole. Ask students to name some systems they can think of. (Answers might include an ecosystem, a car engine, or a process for organizing information such as the number system.)
- Tell students that all of these systems, whether manmade or natural, can be described using the same basic terminology because systems have the same basic parts. This makes the ability to think critically about systems an important skill because it can translate to so many different fields. Pass out the Systems Vocabulary Diagram and review the terms as a class.
- Now, split the class into five groups. Each group should get a different system card from the document Describing Systems Cards. The goal is for groups to deduce each other’s systems by asking a series of questions.
- Inform students that on the left side of the card they are receiving, they will find basic, general information about one way to define a particular system. On the right side of the card, there is a set of words that students cannot use when describing the system. Additionally, students cannot use any of the words in the name of the system. It is up to each group to describe their system in a way that will allow the rest of the class to guess what it is.
- The class should ask the presenting group questions using the vocabulary covered in the Systems Vocabulary Diagram. For example, a student might ask “What are the inputs of this system?” If the presenting group had the “nervous system” card, they would not be able to say “senses”, so they might respond by saying “information from the world around us”.
- Each group should be given the opportunity to “present” their system. Give the rest of the class about 2 minutes to ask questions about the system. In addition to identifying the system, the class should be taking note of any similarities that arise in the descriptions of each system.
- Ask students what similarities they were able to identify in the descriptions of each systems. (They should have noticed that each of the systems could be described using inputs, outputs, and the interactions between the different parts.)
Part 3: Mapping Data
- Return to the activity from Part 1. Ask students to think about how the “observers” figured out the interactions taking place within the system. (Sample answer: They watched specific individuals in addition to the larger group.)
- Now ask students to recall the first step in the SMUBA Process of Innovation. Are there ways of “Seeing” or tools that might have aided the “observers” in Part 1?
- In addition to collecting more data, organizing the data in a systematic way or focusing in on parts of the system could have helped the observers in identifying the rule. Ask students to take 5 minutes to create a rough sketch of a map that represents the system the class created in Part 1. Remind students that the term map does not always refer to a geographical map.
- After students have had time to map, ask them to use the Mapping module of the THINK app to see if what they have created fits into any of the examples from the app. (Depending upon the rule from Part 1, students may notice their maps resemble the maps found under Maps Show Hierarchy or Maps Structure Knowledge.)
- Wrap-up by asking students how the map differs from the raw observational data collected by the “observers” in Part 1. It may be useful to prompt students by asking the class what role the maps they have created play. This role may not match up with those found in the app. (Sample Answer: Maps Reveal Interactions.)