CFSD has long embraced the use of systems thinking and its related tools as a critical component of each student’s educational program. Systems thinking utilizes habits, tools and concepts to develop an understanding of the interdependent structures of dynamic systems. Use of visual tools, such as behavior over time graphs, causal loop diagrams, and stock and flow diagrams, help students make connections between their learning and life events, and to solve real world problems.
At Valley View, teachers are adapting systems thinking tools to the youngest learners, using them in ways that engage and invite children into the learning process. A behavior over time graph (BOTG) allows students to analyze one element that changes over time, such as a character’s feelings, friendships, or the amount of water in the environment. Our students analyze the changes as they occur. The end result is a line graph that provides visual support to engage in deep thinking and evaluate change.
Causal loop diagrams help our young learners visualize the relationships between variables within a system. For example, they can look at interdependent events – such as the growth of a seed or the effects of one’s behavior on others. One valuable aspect of this tool is that children have opportunities to ask “what if” and “I wonder” questions about elements in a system.
Stock and flow diagrams challenge children to examine an element that increases and/or decreases over time. For example, students contribute ideas about what increases or decreases a character’s emotions (e.g., what adds happy feelings to a person and what takes away from a person’s happy feelings). Students present ideas drawn directly from personal experience, pull specific language from a story, or reach beyond the text, making assertions about what might happen and how those events may affect the overall system.
A tour through our classrooms will show the use of these systems tools in action, or they can be found as a display on our walls to remind students what they have learned to use and can revisit. The academic and lifetime benefits of using systems thinking compels us to ensure that we are developing these skills in our students.