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In the Media
Looking Back on the Limits of Growth
By Mark Strauss
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.
The Carbon Bathtub
By: Robert Kunzig
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.
Recent CLE Updates
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.
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.
An Old Idea Comes Back to Life
as a New Resource/Simulation
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.
Everyday Stocks and Flows Problem Sets for Middle Grades
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.