Systems are a natural part of our world—from the smallest chemical system to the Earth's climate system. The Framework for K-12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards identify systems and system models as one of the crosscutting concepts, and developing and using models as one of the science and engineering practices. However, students do not naturally engage in systems thinking or in building models to make sense of phenomena, and there are few easily accessible tools designed specifically for students to construct models. Using a systems approach takes practice and requires significant guidance from teachers and peers. This article describes a new open-source systems modeling tool called SageModeler and a curricular approach designed to support students and teachers in engaging in systems modeling. The free, web-based SageModeler scaffolds student learning so that young students, beginning in middle school, can engage in systems thinking through designing, building, and revising models. When students engage in three-dimensional learning through building, testing, sharing, and revising their own models of complex systems, they take the necessary steps toward developing knowledge that can be applied more broadly in understanding the natural world.
Damelin, D., Krajcik, J., McIntyre, C., & Bielik, T. (2017). Students making system models: An accessible approach. Science Scope, 40(5), 78-82.