More and more systems-related terms are emerging in the scientific literature, in curricula, and in popular media: systems thinking, systems approaches, systems analysis, systems dynamics, systems mapping, just to name a few. In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, thinking systemically can help us to understand, communicate, address, and educate about challenges we face. Systems thinking is both an approach to seeing the world in a way that makes connections and relationships more visible and improves our decision-making abilities, and a set of methods and tools. This current collection of materials includes a synthesis, exercises, and teacher guidance materials. The synthesis provides an overview of ways to think about systems and of systems thinking tools that can be useful to educators and learners in any discipline. The exercises leverage the content in the synthesis by focusing on two different systems thinking tools: a semi-quantitative modeling tool called Mental Modeler and stakeholder analysis. Students use Mental Modeler to explore the current dynamics of and links between corn and beef production in the United States and use stakeholder analysis to explore a suite of issues ranging from public health initiatives like food labeling to human rights abuses in the fisheries industry. These exercises are the initial building blocks for a broader collection currently under development.
Featured in: *Lessons in Conservation: Systems Thinking Issue