Tools for Systems Thinking


March – October, 2015 – UWCSEA

Teaching students to think in systems has dramatic affects on student learning.  These examples demonstrate the power in utilizing tools with students to facilitate systems thinking.  As part of her work in collaboration with Compass Education, Alex Wenzel has pulled these resources into the curriculum to connect student learning within the broader context of sustainability.

Condo Construction Compass:  Students use the sustainability compass points of Nature, Economy, Society, and Wellness to organize their understanding about the issues surrounding the construction of a new condominium complex next to the school.  They then draw connections between the various points to deepen their understanding of interconnected effects.

Iceberg of Confidence: As part of the middle school mentoring program students use the iceberg tool to explore the things that affect confidence in a typical middle school student.  Students uncover the factors that influence our thoughts and self-talk and how that manifests in our words, actions and behaviors.

Energy Systems Map: In a unit on energy, students use the framework of How to Draw Toast to investigate the energy systems behind typical consumer items.  Students learn to draw a basic systems map and identify energy inputs into the systems.  This is then tied to sustainable energy choices within society.

As a result of identifying links and cause-and-effect relationships, students begin to see the cross-curricular connections and consider many factors when making judgements and decisions.  These are powerful learning tools to teach sustainability and sustainable development.