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In the Media

Looking Back on the Limits of Growth
Forty years after the release of the groundbreaking study, were the concerns about overpopulation and the environment correct?

By Mark Strauss
Smithsonian magazine, April 2012

Recent research supports the conclusions of a controversial environmental study released 40 years ago: The world is on track for disaster. So says Australian physicist Graham Turner, who revisited perhaps the most groundbreaking academic work of the 1970s,The Limits to Growth.

Written by MIT researchers for an international think tank, the Club of Rome, the study used computers to model several possible future scenarios.

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The Carbon Bathtub

By: Robert Kunzig
National Geographic Magazine, December 2009

It's simple, really: As long as we pour CO2; into the atmosphere faster than nature drains it out, the planet warms. And that extra carbon takes a long time to drain out of the tub.

A fundamental human flaw, says John Sterman, impedes action on global warming. Sterman is not talking about greed, selfishness, or some other vice. He's talking about a cognitive limitation, "an important and pervasive problem in human reasoning" that he has documented by testing graduate students at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Sterman teaches system dynamics, and he says his students, though very bright and schooled in calculus, lack an intuitive grasp of a simple, crucial system: a bathtub.

Read More

Recent CLE Updates

Connecting Past, Present, and Future

A Four-Part Curriculum by Jeff Potash & Jennifer Andersen

The four simulations of the Population Dynamics series have been designed to supplement existing high school history curricula and be largely self-directed by students outside of class time. They are intended to introduce students to a variety of systems tools (behavior-over-time graphs, stock/flow maps, models/ simulations) along with primary and secondary historical resources. This combination of tools offers students opportunities to reconstruct patterns of change in the past, based on structural relationships that continue to exist and influence the present and future. Each of the four simulations examines an important period of development in American history.

Read more in The Exchange vol 24.1...


Innovation Academy Charter School Reaffirms a Systems Approach to Education

It is 7:55 a.m., and Greg Orpen takes his usual post outside the auditorium, greeting students and faculty and ushering students off to their first-period classes. Orpen, who has been part of the IACS faculty for fourteen years, has always been a positive, familiar face in the community. With his promotion to Head of School in November 2013, Orpen is able to shine in a new light. Throughout the Head of School search process, a repeated theme discussed by the Search Committee was the desire to return to the school's original charter, and within that, systems thinking and system dynamics.

Read more in The Exchange vol 23.3...


An Old Idea Comes Back to Life as a New Resource/Simulation
Behind Closed Gates: Potential dynamics when one individual or group is given complete authority over another
by Anne LaVigne

Approximately twenty years ago, a few middle school teachers saw a connection between a model that Barry Richmond had created to represent the dynamics of Phillip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment and a book they were studying with their classes, Animal Farm. The relationships of power found within a prison structure seemed very similar to those that played out within the book.

The teachers ran with that idea and created a simulation interface for an adaptation of Barry's model that connected relationships among the characters to relationships between prisoners and guards. For a number of years, these middle school students read the book and used the simulation to explore those relationships and connect them to similar, real-world situations. The teachers have since retired and the students are now all grown. The simulation went out of use and sat dormant for many years.

Read more in The Exchange vol 23.3 .


Everyday Stocks and Flows Problem Sets for Middle Grades
by Alan Ticotsky

Educators new to system dynamics may think there is a ‘standard’ sequence of learning and teaching for K-12 educators:  behavior-over-time graphs (BOTGs), feedback loops, stock and flow (S/F) diagrams, and computer modeling. This is a classic case of applying linear thinking to systems thinking without realizing it.

A teacher found that she hadn’t appreciated the power of BOTGs in her math teaching until she learned how to construct S/F diagrams with her class. She found a lot of insight among students when she asked them to graph stocks and flows on the same scale. They began to understand rates of change and really grasped the connection between stocks and flows.

Read more in The Exchange (vol 22.3)


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