Bringing Systems Thinking to your High School Students through

Bringing critical systems thinking to
high school students through ocean
acidification research
An overview for high school teachers
Program Vision
To teach science as an engaging
interdisciplinary subject using research-based
education and current scientific practices
Specifically – We help students develop the thinking and
concepts required for systems science by using a common
problem that inherently brings together biology, chemistry,
physics, mathematics, statistics and computer science
Program Mission:
Cultivate cross-disciplinary skills for
solving complex problems
Why and how we bring Ocean
Acidification research to 6-12th graders…
The Changing Carbon Cycle: A Scientific
and Societal Problem
• Crucial for today's students to fully understand
– scientific problem
• with largely anthropogenic roots
• with serious biological and societal consequences
• Inquiry based learning and experimentation that
closely models what is occurring in laboratories
across the world.
• Students can act as both scientists and delegates
• Interdisciplinary
• Addresses the Next Generation Science Standards
Common problem/story is ocean acidification
Each of our modules has an inherently interdisciplinary, systems
problem or situation that allows students to learn about the process of
For this module, ocean acidification is that situation. For your
background information, the most important thing to realize is that the
rate of change of CO2 in our atmosphere is 10-100 times greater than
ever observed in our Earth’s history. What does this mean for the 70%
of our planet that is our ocean and for all of us who are connected to this
immensely important system?
Ocean Acidification: A Systems
Approach to a Global Problem
• A curriculum unit that models current
research and connects to the work of others
• Students act as scientists and delegates.
• 3-5 weeks of class time.
Photos:, NASA,
Broad Curriculum Module Goal:
Analyze the effect increasing atmospheric CO2 has on
ocean chemistry, ecosystems and human societies
Prior Knowledge Needed to achieve this goal:
Understand the basics of networks.
Lesson 1 and 2 of our Ecological Networks module can help
with this understanding:
EcoNet Lesson 1 - Classroom exercise:
analyzing a social network
1. In an interactive group activity,
students use familiar cell phone
networks to learn about how
information can be easily depicted.
2. Students pull together the class
information to quickly learn
that even when working in a
team of five, it is still difficult to
organize and analyze all of the
EcoNet Lesson 2: Motivation to use tools to
solve problems
We know that systems
thinking enables behavioral
The cell phone and
cytoscape lessons help
build systems thinking
skills and can be applied in
many contexts throughout
the year.
When teachers complete
the OA lessons with these
two prior lessons, students’
learning is greatly
enhanced for each of the
following lessons.
Poster: Waters Foundation
To introduce the module – there are many
• The news pieces in Lesson 1 serve as a great intro. Students
see they are studying a problem concurrently with top
scientists. We all need to decipher the evidence in order to
understand and make decisions about what actions to take.
• Or you can give them a scenario that they will follow through
and build on subsequent lessons:
You are a different person or organism. As a person, your finances
have drastically changed (some for the better, some NOT for the
better). If you are an organism: you have noticed a change –
you’re not sure what is happening but you have noticed small
things. For instance, previously you could “look in the farmer’s
almanac” and predict life for the next few months. You notice your
growing season has changed, or things sound or smell different, or
things just “aren’t right”. We’ll use interdisciplinary science,
collaboration & systems thinking to figure out what is wrong and
what we can expect in the future!
Lesson 1 (Introduction through case studies):
Understand the broad reach and accessibility of ocean
studies. Gain the critical thinking skills to properly
evaluate news media.
Students each read a news article and critically assess
its validity using SAT reading techniques. Each student
then contributes their article’s key “nodes” to help create
an interconnected diagram. As a class they identify
important points or nodes that they want to study in their
Lesson 2: Exploring CO2 in the lab
A. Use inquiry to understand CO2.
B. Learn the basics of the changing carbon cycle and
ocean acidification.
Option 1
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Option 2
Round Robin Labs:
Lesson 3
• Watch Acid Test video – realize this is a
global problem with many stakeholders
• Setting the stage to model a collaborative
lab group
• Is this a situation that requires a systems
– Many parts with interactions, emergent
properties, reverberating effects?
Does this require a systems study?
Trees and Plants
Marine Animals
Balancing versus reinforcing loops
Questions for students to explore:
Do you think this is a balancing or reinforcing
loop? What about the CO2 loop in our
environment? How can we learn more?
By the end of Lesson 3 (see lesson plan for
more info)
• Students will decide which interest group
they would like to align themselves with.
Delegates to the “International Convention on the Impacts
of the Changing Carbon Cycle on Ocean Systems.”
Marine calcifying
One of each group; duplicates as needed.
Low CO2 Emitter
High CO2 Emitter
Lessons 4-5: Exploration of the effects of
changing CO2 and nutrient cycles
Main question: What effect does the increasing
atmospheric CO2 have on the ocean and its
• Model collaborative systems research
• Analyze multiple and diverse data
• Use multiple stressors
Options (while in their interest groups)
A. Student groups each design their own
B. 8 or so protocols available for student
groups to complete all with slight variations
(see Lesson 4 Teacher Resources for more
• Examples: Diatoms – various nutrient, CO2 entry,
water, temperature, salinity types
• Shell and bone dissolution with sea urchin online
– All have some online data component
Visible results of trial run conducted by
ISB high school interns.
Differences in cell density across varying media are
visibly detectable.
Flasks shown one week
after inoculation.
Growth curves as determined from
hemocytometer counts performed by ISB high
school interns
Need for multiple & diverse data
• Daily culture measurements:
– Cell count using a hemocytometer
– OD 600 reading/Fluorometer reading
(depending on what technology is
– Pigment description
– Pigment extraction experiment
• Chromatography
Chromatogram from Henderson State Univ.
Example of experiment design
5g of dry ice were used
to stabilize CO2 levels at
approximately 2000
ppm. pH of seawater
dropped from 8.0 to 6.5
overnight. Shells left in
seawater lost 2% of
their mass over 3 days.
NetLogo / Java simulation for
generating hypotheses.
Supplement their experiment with online
data component.
• Bad Acid: Sea Urchin Simulation
• WA State Department of Ecology (Eyes over
Puget Sound)
• Multiple in situ sensors
• Ice Core studies
• Mesocosm studies
• Many NOAA resources
• Carbon footprint calculators
• In addition to completing their own
experiment, students will explore an online
data component.
• Some experiments are more technical than
others, so the groups with less time intensive
experiments may complete the majority of the
online portions. Jigsawing the activities is a
good option:
Ice Core Exploration
Eyes over Puget Sound
Students in the Marine Calcifying group should
also complete the Online Stanford Sea Urchin –
Acid Ocean activity:
Once students have their data
• Help them loop back to all they have learned.
They should begin stepping back to make a
map with connections between all of the
interacting parts. Help them understand the
subsystem they explored. Then have them
step back to connect this to the entire system
as they begin to prepare for their summit.
• The DRAFT figures on the following slides
may be used to help them see the positive
and negative impact of various parts in this
Atmospheric CO2
Developing Island Nation
CO2 Polluting Nations
CO2 Absorbed by
Marine Calcifying
Higher Trophic Level
Fish Dependent on
Marine Calcifiers
Atmospheric CO2
CO2 Polluting Nations
Developing Island Nation
CO2 Absorbed by
Marine Calcifying
Higher Trophic Level
Fish Dependent on
Marine Calcifiers
Atmospheric CO2
CO2 Absorbed by
Storms/Depth of
Lesson 6:
Mock Summit
• Research summits,
position statements, etc.
• Each group presents for
2 minutes, others take
notes only
• Questioning protocol
Lesson 6 – Mock Summit
• Each group presents for 2 minutes, others
take notes only
– Poster, lab report, powerpoint?
– What interest group, research report, data
collected, experimental data that supports
position, future next steps for your research
– Recommendations for future research
– Policy recommendations for individuals, as a
member of the interest group, for all others
Delegates reconvene
• Discussion of findings
– Emphasis placed on the impact on the given
– Recommendations crafted for scientists,
politicians and people across the world.
– Students reflect on unanswered questions
and on what their individual roles in the
networks they’ve studied are.
• How they might change their actions in order to
impact the network?
• What does their final, class experimental network
look like?
Flow of
Please complete both the pre and post
assessments. We would appreciate any
• Hard copies available online
• Or use our survey monkey
– Preassessment:
– Postassessment:
Attn: Claudia Ludwig, 401 Terry Avenue N., Seattle, WA 98109
Assessment results elucidate emphasis
• Incorporating interest groups leads to passionate and global
– No interest group = decreased passion and perspective
• Incorporating systems level emphasis = great gains
– No systems emphasis = gain in general scientific thinking without
systems. The difference is that students do not gain
understanding in coupled factors, need for multiple data types or
the importance of modeling if a systems emphasis is not used.
• If cell phone lessons were completed
– Students focus more on reverberating effects and tend to see the
big picture. They also articulate these effects and views more
fully during the summit when they have completed the cell phone
lessons 1 and 2.
Anecdotal Student Comments
• Students are engaged and learn a
tremendous amount during this module.
Here are a couple of student comments:
– “This was the most fun I have ever had in a
science class.”
– “I wish we had more time for this.”
Thanks for your interest!
• Please let us know if you would like to
participate more in our program and/or if
you have any feedback!
• From the OA Curriculum team…
We thank NSF (OCF 0928561) and NIH/NIGMS for leveraged
Please see for more information.

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