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Working to develop Systems Citizens in K-12 Education


Making Thinking Visible: Connection Circles

Connection Circles are thinking tools. The goal of the circle is to clarify our thinking about the underlying causes of complex issues. Connection circles help us brainstorm about what is changing and to trace webs of causal relationships within systems to understand those changes. It can be a handy graphic organizer that helps students understand the main ideas in their reading.

In Systems Thinking the connection circle has a much broader purpose in our endeavor to heighten students’ awareness of the causes of change all around them. The purpose of a connection circle is to uncover the causal loops that could be causing the problem we have observed. That means that there are two essential elements: a problem behavior pattern and the causal loops driving it.


Model Mysteries Book Cover

Model Mysteries
An Exploration of Vampires, Zombies, and Other Fantastic Scenarios to Make the World a Better Place
by Anne LaVigne and Lees Stuntz

  • How can zombie chickens taking over the world be similar to a growing national debt or the possible extinction of an endangered species?
  • How can the distribution of a new mind-control technology be similar to working toward a goal, like improving your grades?

Learn about modeling in a fun an engaging way with a new guide from the CLE.

Read more or Download it today!


CLE Conference: Continue the Learning Journey

CLE Conference

Thanks for making the 2016 conference a success! A few thoughts from our conference participants:

"This conference is a great way to connect with the community bringing system dynamics and systems thinking practice to schools."

"I was very impressed with the variety of points of view among participants. Their vantage points within the modeling community ranged from expert modeler to administrator to teacher to non-profit consultant, and I found that most conversations were extremely engaging and thought provoking."

To learn more about our 2016 conference and explore presentations from this event visit our Conference Homepage.



Behavior over Time Graphs


Tools of making thinking visible: Behavior over Time Graphs

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Recent Newsletter Articles

Building the Behind Closed Gates Model
By Anne LaVigne with support from the CLE and the Gordon Brown Fund

Behind Closed Gates: Power and Control

The Behind Closed Gates   simulation/model is loosely based on an experiment conducted at Stanford University in 1971. The psychologist who designed that experiment, Phillip Zimbardo, wanted to see how typical people would act if they were asked to take on roles of prisoners and guards.

The experiment and model are certainly about a prison environment, but they are also relevant to many other similar scenarios. The experiment is frequently referenced when trying to understand current and historic situations involving power and control.

Now you can build most of the underlying model and explore questions and situations beyond those presented in the simulation.

Read more in The Exchange

Among the Hidden: Connection Circles

Among the Hidden
by Gail Falewicz

Gail Falewicz has inherited the Critical Thinking and Reading (CTR) class from Mairéad Orpen. (See The Creative Learning Exchange, vol. 22, no. 1, Winter 2013.) As the CTR teacher, Gail teaches every 5th grade student at Innovation Academy Charter School (IACS), a public charter school, in Tyngsboro, MA. Here is her summary of the class structure and a report of a unit she taught based on the novel Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

The purpose and scope of CTR can be summarized into three goal areas:

  • improve reading and comprehension skills
  • develop critical thinking and problem solving skills
  • promote the school’s four outcomes—Community Membership, Effective Communication, Problem Solving, and Self-Direction through whole class, small group and partner work

These goals are pursued through an academic curriculum that supports students across content areas.

Read more in The Exchange


Download the most recent copy of The Exchange vol 25.2


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The Creative Learning Exchange, 27 Central St., Acton, MA, 01720, (978) 635-9797. Comments/Questions?