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Experiencing Ups & Downs Over Time:  Oscillating Systems

Sometimes it seems as though it's impossible to understand what's causing all of the "craziness" of life's ups and downs. Many situations in a variety of contexts display this up-and-down oscillatory behavior.

A series of lessons from the CLE allows students and others to play (using online simulations) with different oscillating systems. Through asking "what if" questions as part of an exploration, they can discover that the structure of a system itself creates the resulting variations. Given this understanding, they can look beyond blame to see the deeper nature of what is causing particular behaviors to occur. The visual impact of a system can be described as the "tip of an iceberg". Much of the mass of the iceberg is hidden below the surface - much like complex systems. Please use this iceberg visual to conceptualize the complexity of many oscillating systems.

Lessons about the dynamics of oscillating systems are divided into three age categories. Level A lessons are for students from age 5 and older, Level B are for students 8 and older, Level C lessons are designed for students 13 years old and older.

Please explore the lessons below to learn more about oscillating systems and the surprising implications of these systems.


Download Lessons (PDF):

Level A Lessons

Level B Lessons

Level C Lessons


Oscillating Systems Lessons and Simulations

FAQ for the Lessons and Simulations

Feel free to pick and choose among them, but we believe the greatest impact on student learning will occur when they are exposed to the same idea in many different contexts. For that reason, the simulations do have a suggested order:

1) Spring Dynamics
What makes a spring, a spring? Springs are all around us, but rarely thought of or considered for what they are – oscillating systems.
Background Information the Level C lesson

2) Interpersonal Relationships
What is more realistic – “happily ever after” or “life is full of ups and downs?”
Background Information the Level C lesson

Predator and Prey Interactions
A few years ago animals were plentiful; what happened to make them disappear?

3) Population Dynamics (Logistic Growth)
Background Information the Level C lesson

Six Complex Systems Videos

4) Predator and Prey (Cyclic Behavior)
Background Information the Level C lesson

5) Predator, Prey and Food
Background Information the Level C lesson

6) Burnout

How can individual choices and work styles lead to cycles of burnout (as characterized by apathy and low energy)?
Background Information the Level C lesson

7) Economics of Commodities

Given a scenario of raising hogs to meet a particular need, what affects price and availability of the commodities (products) that people use in everyday life? 
Background Information the Level C lesson

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