Abstract for: Teaching Characteristics of Complex Systems in K-12 Education: Lessons Learned

This paper describes lessons learned while completing a pilot project initiated by Professor Jay Forrester through the Creative Learning Exchange. The goal of the Characteristics of Complex Systems Project (CCSP) is to create online curriculum materials for K-12 students and interested adults that will illustrate the characteristics of complex systems first enunciated by Forrester (1969) and appearing repeatedly in the systems thinking/system dynamics literature since then. The pilot project was designed to address the characteristic “The cause of the problem is within the system” through the creation of a family of models that share the generic 2nd order negative feedback loop that generates oscillation. Students can encounter these models in various formats and subject areas. Through repeated exposure to models and materials that incorporate instructional scaffolding principles , students learn to recognize the perceived problematic behavior exhibited is a consequence of the internal system structure. The lessons learned during the pilot project are being used to inform further development of curriculum materials that illustrate Forrester’s characteristics for K-12 students.