• conceptualise more just and sustainable human and
• develop knowledge and skills in exploring probable
and preferred futures.
• understand the dynamics and influence that human,
social and ecological systems have on alternative
• conscientise responsibility and action on the part of
students toward creating better futures.
Why study the future
Stone, Bronze, Iron Ages
Ancient Greek, Roman, Chinese technology
Any sufficiently advanced technology is
indistinguishable from magic
Arthur C Clarke
Linear model of innovation
It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has
exceeded our humanity
Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the
steamroller, you’re part of the road
We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and
technology and yet have cleverly arranged things so that
almost no one understands science and technology. That’s a
clear prescription for disaster
Systems Thinking makes it possible to analyse
and understand complex phenomena
Instead of isolating smaller and smaller parts of the
system being studied, systems thinking works by
expanding its view to consider larger and larger
numbers of interactions as an issue is being studied
Thinking consists of two activities: constructing mental
models and then simulating them in order to draw
conclusions and make decisions
Understanding the concept of a tree requires more
information than is available through sensory experience
alone. It’s built on past experiences and knowledge.
The image of the world around us, which we carry in our
head, is just a model. Nobody in his head imagines all the
world… they have only selected concepts, and relationships
between them, and uses those to represent the real system
The problems we have created in the world today will not be
solved by the level of thinking that created them
We are limited in our capacity to form and reform mental
models. Systems modelling allows us to move from “what” to
“what if” and make our thinking visible
The basic building blocks of dynamic models are stocks, flows,
Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful
A supermarket can be seen as any of the following kinds of
systems, depending on the perspective:
a "profit making system" … from the perspective of management and owners
a "distribution system“… from the perspective of the suppliers
an "employment system“… from the perspective of employees
a "materials supply system“… from the perspective of customers
an "entertainment system“… from the perspective of loiterers
a "social system" …from the perspective of local residents
a "dating system" …from the perspective of single customers
Students need learn to identify the properties of the
various subsystems they explore, for example of a bicycle,
and examine how they relate to the whole.
Children tend to think of the properties of a system as
belonging to individual parts of it rather than as arising
from the interaction of the parts. A system property that
arises from interaction of parts is therefore a difficult idea.
Students should already know that if something consists
of many parts, the parts usually influence one another.
Also they should be aware that something may not work as
well (or at all) if a part of it is missing, broken, worn out,
mismatched, or misconnected.
Students can learn about the
choices and constraints that
go into the design of a
bicycle system. Depending
on whether the bicycle is
intended for racing,
mountain roads, or touring,
influences its design and
such choices as the type of
tires, frame and materials,
and drives and gears.
In addition, accommodating one constraint can often lead
to conflict with others. For example, the lightest material
may not be the strongest, or the most efficient shape may
not be the safest or the most aesthetically pleasing.
Therefore, every design problem lends itself to many
alternative solutions, depending on what values people
place on the various constraints.
Subsystems could include:
Drivers & Gears
Frames & Materials
Brakes & Steering
Speed Safety Comfort Durability Endurance
Parts Function Inputs Outputs Boundaries
Wheel & Axle (subsystem)
The wheel & axle
transfer energy from
rubber band to the surface
to move the car.
Rubber band (energy)
Elastic potential energy will
be transferred to the wheel
and axle subsystem
Most of the energy results in
motion.Some energy is
transformed into heat through
friction with the surface
My hand (input)
A person provides the
energy that is stored in the
stretched rubber band.
The car moves as a
result of the energy that
is put into the system.
A Physical System
(Big Idea context)
A Rubber Band
Function of the part
Function of the part
Function of the part
Predict: What if a part is
Function of the whole
Other systems with a part
Name all the parts
Parts & Wholes
Function of the Part
What form of energy makes this system work?
Predict the effect of a
broken subsystem (part)
Changes in input
What the whole system
Inputs & Outputs
Functions & Predictions
Describe how the output will change if we change the input
Inputs & Outputs
Boundaries & Flow
Open & Closed Systems
Give an example of how a change in a subsystem influences the entire system
Is this system closed or open? Explain.
Boundaries of the system
Inflow compared to
Feedback from output
Interaction with another
Is the system in
equilibrium or is it
How are models of this system used to make predictions?
What are the limitations of the model in accurately making predictions?
As you are reading, look for key words such as:
change transform revolution becoming more rose went up increased
got higher grew/growth gained less fell went down decreased went
lower declined lost
Write down one or more quotes in each box. Circle key words of change
and underline what you think is changing. Draw a line graph of how the
quote shows change over time. Explain why the change occurs.
Identifying Change Over Time in Text
Quotes from book Change over time
Why this might be
What important elements have changed over time?
How has __________ changed over time?
During what period of time have the changes occurred?
Where on the y-axis should the graph start and why?
How would you label the bottom/middle/top of the y-axis?
What evidence supports the graph being created?
Questions to ask when analysing a system that changes over time:
What caused any changes in direction or slope?
How are interpretations of a graphed element the same or different?
What changes may happen in the future based on what has been
Do you see any connections (interdependencies or causal
relationships) between/among graphs?
Questions to consider once BOTGs have been created:
A feedback loop is formed when changes in a stock affect the flows
into or out of that same stock
Balancing feedback loops are stability seeking and try to keep a
stock at a certain level or within a certain range
Reinforcing feedback loops occur when a system element has the
ability to reproduce itself or grow at a constant fraction of itself
Put 2 “coins” in, take 1 “coin” out
1. Write the rule at the top of the graph for Game 1.
2. Graph the number of “coins” in the piggy before you begin.
3. Write your prediction.
4. Round 1: Using the piggy handout, put 2 “coins” in, and then take 1 out.
5. Graph the number of “coins” left in the piggy on the line for round 1.
6. Round 2: Add two more “coins”, then take 1 away, graph... continue doing so for 3
more rounds; record the number of “coins” left at the end.
7. Was your prediction correct? Why or why not?
Make a new rule to save more
money than in the first game but
that can still be seen on the graph.
Make a new rule with money going
in and out that shows how money
can decrease (go down) over time.
A converter holds
affect the rate of
the flows, or that
affect the content
changes in one
changes in another
changes a stock by
going through an
A flow represents actions or
processes; transports “stuff”,
concrete or abstract, that
directly adds to or takes away
from accumulation in a stock;
the verbs in the system
A stock represents
time; the nouns in
Central B indicates a Balancing loop, R a Reinforcing loop
Central + or - indicates positive (growth or decline) or negative
(oscillating or seeking) loops
Arrowed signs indicate the direction of causality + (adds to or
changes it in same direction or - (takes from or change direction)
o reverses direction or subtracts, s same direction or adds to it
air pollution (CO2)
pollution outsourcing to China
standard of living
Audio article and transcript
finding feedback loops