Abstract for: Using Simulations for Discovery Learning about Environmental Accumulations

This paper presents findings from the use of a simulation learning environment to teach college students about principles of accumulation. The simulation package is part of an ongoing study testing the utility of systems simulations for teaching students about the complex systems relationships in environmental studies and science. We have conducted paired experiments over the past five semesters in a team-taught, college-level Introduction to Environmental Science course using system dynamics simulations. We have progressively refined the systems learning objectives, simulations, and assessments. The focus that has emerged from this research is the need for building systems understanding about the dynamics of accumulations. While most students are able to define and identify everyday examples of accumulations, they have difficulty understanding relationships between flows and accumulations in any but the simplest cases. The pattern-matching tendency is strong. In this paper we present a simulation developed specifically to address simple issues of accumulation and discuss lessons we have learned about best practices for discovery learning in this setting.