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CLE Conference

Systems Thinking & Dynamic Modeling
Conference for K-12 Education
Using systems thinking and system dynamics to
address common core and stem standards

June 30 – July 2, 2012
Babson Executive Conference Center
Wellesley, Massachusetts

Featured Speakers:

Peter Senge
Now What? How Do We Implement the Common Core Standards and the STEM Process Using Systems Thinking and System Dynamics in our Educational System?

George Richardson
Creating Critical Thinking in our Students through System Dynamics

Dennis Meadows
Sustainability Games


2012 Conference Program
Download PDF program

Friday, June 29

7:00-9:00 PM—Registration

Saturday, June 30

8:30-10:00—Registration/Continental Breakfast

10:00-12:00—Welcome and Introductions

Featured Speaker - George Richardson, O'Leary Professor of Public Administration and Policy, and Informatics, SUNY Albany: Creating Critical Thinking in our Students through System Dynamics

1:30-5:00—Workshops to Learn and Explore

A Beginner’s Guide to the Use of ST Tools in the Classroom
Mike Hanson and Brett Thompson, Tahoma Public Schools

Are you excited about integrating systems thinking tools in your classroom or school but unsure where to start? This workshop will help educators who are new to ST/SD see how the tools (Behavior Over Time Graphs, Connections Circles, Stock Flow Diagrams, Causal Loop Diagrams, Iceberg Models, and Mental Models) can be used to help students better understand complex problems. Participants will leave having experienced each of the above tools from a student perspective and with ideas for how to incorporate the tools into their own classrooms. This workshop will be presented from a secondary classroom perspective, but the tools can easily be applied at all levels.

Using the System Dynamics Process to Teach STEM and Common Core Math & Science
Diana Fisher, Portland Public Schools

There is increased emphasis on the value of modeling in the Common Core math and science standards and in STEM to help students surface their mental models so misconceptions can be addressed. System dynamics models help students construct and test hypotheses as active participants in the scientific process. Participants will build models involving resource depletion and predator/prey interactions, among others. This workshop is appropriate for middle and high school math and science teachers. Participants should have a laptop computer for this intermediate level workshop.

Using System Dynamics Principles to Create a Learning Organization in a Classroom
Alan Ticotsky, Innovation Academy, and Rob Quaden, Carlisle Public Schools        

This workshop examines both the practical and philosophical aspects that contribute to a dynamic, learner-centered classroom. We will look at teaching and learning from several points of view, including system skills, pedagogy, and content. Participants will engage in hands-on activities that can be used in a variety of classes and grade levels. No previous experience is necessary, and the session is suitable for classroom teachers, administrators, and other educators.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears: Creating Simple Financial and Population Models
Anne LaVigne, Creative Learning Exchange and Waters Foundation, Systems Thinking in Schools

This session is intended for individuals who have some systems thinking background and would like to explore the basics of dynamic modeling software as a way to represent a system. Participants will become familiar with the icons of STELLA® software (stocks, flows, converters, connectors, and graphs) in order to build simple models that demonstrate different patterns of behavior. As time allows, participants will explore changing parameters for additional pre-built models and simulations, including some that are freely available online. Please bring a laptop computer for this session. If you don’t have one, it may be possible to share with another participant.

How School and District Leaders Apply Systems Thinking to 21st Century Educational System
Tracy Benson and Kathy Scheppe, Tucson Public Schools.

In this workshop, participants will experience practical applications of systems thinking habits, concepts and tools as applied to:

  • the development of healthy school and district culture and climate
  • planning and decision-making for desired outcomes
  • professional development time for staff
  • opportunities for student leadership development and student support and interventions
  • parent and community involvement.

Critical Thinking Skills: A Discussion of Barry Richmond’s Critical Thinking Skills and Systems Thinking in K-12 Education
Jeff Potash, CIESD, and Tim Joy, DeLaSalle North, Portland OR

In creating STELLA, Barry Richmond strove to make system dynamics modeling accessible to a broad audience. In his subsequent work with K-12 educators, Barry used his unique talents and insights to explain where and how systems thinking (and dynamic modeling) tools offered a unique language and structure for facilitating a set of higher-level critical thinking skills (including dynamic, closed-loop, and non-linear thinking). Participants in this session will revisit Barry’s ideas as they continue to guide best practice and inspire among K-12 educators a vision that Barry coined “Systems Citizenship.”

7:30—After-dinner Reception
Chat with system dynamics pioneers, including George Richardson, Peter Senge, and Dennis Meadows, while enjoying posters showcasing students’ learning in systems thinking and system dynamics as well as teachers' work in integrating ST/SD into curriculum nationally and internationally.

Sunday, July 1

9:00-10:30—Specific Curriculum Demonstrations and Special Topic Discussions

  • Hands-on with STELLA Version 10—isee systems

    During this workshop you will build a system dynamics model using STELLA version 10. The workshop is intended for both new and experienced STELLA users. Come join us for some hands-on experience and see how version 10 features make it even easier to build models for your classroom. Please bring a laptop computer.

  • Creating Curricula Using Systems Thinking and System Dynamics—Innovation Academy

    Innovation Academy Charter School (IACS) is a public charter school serving students in grades 5-12. IACS has used systems thinking and system dynamics as a guiding principle since the school's inception in the 1990s. During this session, faculty members will demonstrate applications of systems activities and principles they have developed, adapted, and integrated for use in their classrooms. Examples to be shared represent systems tools in music, language arts, math, and social studies curriculum, with conversations extending to whole school implications. This interactive workshop will be of interest to educators from upper elementary grades through high school, and is suitable for people of all experience levels.

  • Embracing Systems Thinking in the Primary Years—Liane Bouffard, Anna Geras, Maria Simpson, and Nicole Wooten, Winston-Salem School District, NC

    Kindergarten students cannot do systems thinking? Systems thinking is only for older students? This session will debunk that myth. Four elementary teachers will share their successes and lessons learned introducing systems thinking in their primary years classrooms. Participants will receive practical examples of how to use the systems thinking tools with primary students. Participants will also receive a list of skills, texts, and content knowledge that lend themselves to particular systems thinking tools. The session will also cover how systems thinking tools can be used in classroom management and building student efficacy.

  • Financial Literacy: Dollars and Sense II—Jeff Potash, Center for Interdisciplinary Excellence in System Dynamics

    This session offers a pre-publication exploration of the CLE’s upcoming second book on personal finance issues—Dollars and Sense: Our Interest in Interest. Participants will explore simulations and accompanying materialsdesigned to offer students open-ended and hands-on opportunities to explore how interest-bearing savings accounts, credit cards, and installment loans (e.g., car, mortgage, personal) work, and, more importantly, how to successfully manage them to achieve personal financial goals.

  • Five Important Feedback Loops from Limits to Growth—Dennis Meadows, author, Limits to Growth and The Systems Thinking Playbook

    2012 is the 40th anniversary of the first presentation of World3, the model adapted from Jay Forrester's pioneering work for use in the book Limits to Growth. Dennis will summarize the main conclusions from that study and describe five feedback loops that are important in producing those results.

  • Building a 21st Century Learning Environment in Your Community—Tim Lucas (co-author, Schools That Learn), and Julie Wilson, Institute for the Future of Learning

    How do school leaders facilitate and involve students, staff, parents, and community stakeholders in a systems approach that helps create a sustainable 21st century learning environment? Join us as we explore a three-to-five-year process that includes creating a shared vision based on the challenges facing students, designing collaborative action plans with stakeholders, using data to make informed decisions, developing leadership skills throughout the schools and community, and improving communication to build a sustainable 21st century learning environment.

  • Using System Dynamics to Attract More Students (and Teachers!) to Math and the Scientific Method—Paul Newton, The Boeing Company and citizen advocate for ST&DM in K-12 education

    Bill McDiarmid, former Boeing Professor of Education at the University of Washington, and now Dean of the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, says research shows that teachers self-select into elementary education because of their fear of math. Systems thinking and dynamic modeling offer a way for students in middle and high school to regain their interest in math and to come to understand and value the scientific method, and for elementary school teachers to overcome their fear of math and to ensure their students enjoy becoming mathematical and scientific thinkers. This session will illustrate how systems thinking and dynamic modeling can achieve these goals via its application to subject areas other than math and science, and thereby increase the number of students interested in STEM.

11:00-12:30—Panel: Embedding SD/ST into Schools and School Districts
Moderator: Greg Orpen, Innovation Academy Charter School. Panelists: Tracy Benson, Waters Foundation; Bud Harrelson, Winston-Salem Public Schools; Kathy Scheppe, Tucson Public Schools

2:00-3:30—Specific Curriculum Demonstrations and Special Topic Discussions

  • Exceptional Thinking for Exceptional Learners—Karen Abbott, Winston-Salem School District

    Crossing grade levels and ability levels, systems thinking is a great way to elicit thoughtful responses from students with special learning needs. This session will focus ways to successfully integrate systems thinking into an elementary resource room setting. The presenter will share strategies for using systems thinking to not only scaffold student thinking, but also manage student behavior and build student efficacy.

  • Evolving from a Test-Based to a Curriculum-Based Approach in Evaluating a Systems Thinking Curriculum—Zahra Jalili, Asemaan Group, a ST organization in Iran

    In bringing systems thinking to Iranian schools, our main goal in the evaluation process is to find reliable and valid evidence to evaluate our success or failure in fostering ST skills. In our first evaluation approach (Test-Based Approach), we focused on the output of our education process through measuring the change in students’ ST skills by designing pre- and post- tests. However, due to the accumulation (stock) nature of proficiency and the delay, we decided to shift our focus from measuring the ST skills—the output of our education process—to observing the whole educational process and looking for valid evidence through the process, which helps us evaluate the whole curriculum. In our second approach (Curriculum-Based Approach), we set new evaluation goals and tools to observe the whole curriculum.
  • Playing to Learn: Using a Systems Game to Assess and Develop Systems Literacy—Linda Booth Sweeney, author, The Systems Thinking Playbook and other systems thinking books.

    Children learn best when they are curious, interested and interacting with people and things around them. Jean Piaget, John Dewey, Paulo Freire, Maria Montessori and Seymour Papert all emphasized this constructivist or learn-while doing approach. In this workshop, we’ll use several systems playkits to explore how games can give “players” (both students and teachers) a hands-on opportunity to:
    • “Connect the dots” and see systems, rather than fragments, as the context for decision-making, communication and learning
    • Explore hidden connections and unintended consequences
    • Learn to make systems visible
    • Discover patterns of behavior that repeat themselves in entirely different settings. (I call this   “homologous reasoning.”)
    • Try out and develop language that will enable players to ask better, more systemic questions
    • See the influence they have on natural systems and their role in igniting change at the local level.

  • How to Get a Whole State Moving Ahead: Citizen Advocacy in Conjunction with New Washington State Standards and Initiatives—Paul Newton, The Boeing Company and citizen advocate for ST&DM in K-12 education

    This session will begin with an overview of the intersecting systems thinking and dynamic modeling (ST&DM) related initiatives of the K-12 education, university education, non-profit, citizen advocacy, and industry sectors in Washington, and will hypothesize their effects on the adoption of ST&DM in K-12 education in the State. Participants will informally share stories of similar or other initiatives in their geographies. We will then think together about commonalities and differences in our experiences and begin to develop stock-flow or causal loop diagrams that represent our hypotheses about why our various initiatives have either failed or succeeded in achieving their intended results.
  • From Kindergarten through High School and into the Great Beyond: “Playing” with Complex, Dynamic Systems Online —Jennifer Andersen, Creative Learning Exchange, and Anne LaVigne, Creative Learning Exchange and Waters Foundation, Systems Thinking in Schools

    What do springs, playground relationships, and populations have in common? They all oscillate over time! These ups and downs across multiple contexts form the basis for this series of free, easy-to-use, online simulations and lessons. Initiated by Jay Forrester and developed through the Creative Learning Exchange, each simulation in this first series of simulations explores one of Forrester’s key characteristics of complex systems—“the cause of the problem is within the system.” Having students experience these lessons can create conversation about how system structures generate behaviors and help them make connections to other similar systems within their lives. Please bring a computer to experience the models firsthand.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Systems Thinking/Dynamic Modeling (STDM) - Overlapping Tools for Deeper Learning—Larry Weathers, Arlington MA Public Schools

    As the Common Core State Standards in ELA and Math begin to solidify, the NGSS is weighing in to complete the tripod of foundational standards to guide deeper learning. The NGSS include a set of expected Cross Cutting Concepts which make STDM a perfect fit for not only implementing the new standards, but also creating deeper learning. This session will explore what the Cross Cutting Concepts are, how they mirror systems approaches to education, and what activities utilizing these Cross Cutting Concepts might look like in classrooms and schools.

4:00-5:30—Featured Speaker: Dennis Meadows,author, Limits to Growth and The Systems Thinking Playbook: Sustainability Games
Dennis Meadows will conduct a set of games selected from The Systems Thinking Playbook, which he co-authored with Linda Booth Sweeney. He will briefly introduce and debrief each exercise to relate its principal lesson to the issue of sustainability. As we go through the games, he will delineate the principles of introducing, conducting, and debriefing games to a classroom.

7:30—Celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Barry Richmond’s Keynote speech at the 2002 ST/DM conference: Video and discussion with educators who were influenced by Barry’s vision.

Monday, July 2

8:30-12:00—Featured speaker and facilitator: Peter Senge, author, The Fifth Discipline and Schools that Learn: Now What? How Do We Implement the Common Core Standards and the STEM Process Using Systems Thinking and System Dynamics in our Educational System?


Register on-line

Contact Andi Miller at the Creative Learning Exchange (978-635-9797) with any questions.

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