Lesson 1: Systems Thinking: How to Create a Digital World
Students will learn that the world is made up of systems and discover why it is valuable to understand the elements of a system.
Students will analyze a real-world system and create a virtual version of it.
Worksheet 1, paper, pencils, pens or markers, computer access
Time required: 45 minutes, plus game design time
What to do:
1. Ask: How would you describe a library to someone who had never seen one? Engage students in a short discussion about the attributes of a library. Explain that a library is a type of system and a system is a scientific way to organize a group of related objects, attributes, relationships, and environments and describes how they affect one another.
2. Draw four columns on the board and label them: object, attribute, relationship, and environment. Review the meaning of these words using the definitions below. Then complete the chart as a class by asking questions such as:
- What objects are in a library? (e.g., books, shelves, librarians, patrons, card catalog files, computers, etc.)
- What are a library's attributes? (e.g., books contain information, pictures, stories; shelves hold objects; librarians keep books on the right shelves and control access to books in the library; card catalog contains information on location and contents of books.)
- What relationships do people have with a library? (e.g., patrons borrow books; librarians check books out for patrons; books are stored on shelves; information about books including their location in card catalog.)
- What is the physical environment of a library? (e.g., a building filled with books, desks, tables, clocks, chairs, sofas, computers, carts, and a card catalog. People can use the card catalog to find which books will help them, and where those books are located on the shelves. Librarians keep the books on the shelves in the right order, and help patrons check out and return books when they are done with them.)
3. Explain that this chart now describes the library as a system.
Using the worksheet:
4. Separate students into groups of four or five. Explain that each group will be challenged to select and describe a system of their choice (e.g., a sports arena, a concert hall, Thanksgiving dinner, etc.). Distribute copies of Worksheet 1.
5. Read the instructions together. Then give groups 20 minutes to complete Worksheet 1. To keep groups focused, ask questions such as:
- What are the objects in this system?
- What are the important attributes of each object?
- What are the relationships between the objects?
6. Regroup as a class and discuss any questions students have about systems. Ask: How would an understanding of systems come in handy if you were designing a video game? Explain that it is important to understand all the interrelated parts of a system to create a full, believable world.
7. Challenge student groups to create a video game, based on the system they have just analyzed. Go to www.activategames.org/getting-started and sign in. Then follow the directions to create an original video game based on this real-life system.
Encourage your students in grades 7-12 to submit their video game designs to the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards for the chance to earn scholarships and awards. Click here for information and registration details. Collaborations are welcome!
Attribute: The properties of a system and its objects.
Environment: The space in which the objects interact.
Object: The elements in a system. These may be physical or abstract or both.
Relationship: The internal relationships between the objects in the system.
System: A system is a set of things that affect one another within an environment to form a larger pattern that is different from any of the individual parts.