systems thinking: I investigate the world

Systems thinking supports children in investigating the world and helps children develop insight into society.

Complex world
The world we live in is a complex interplay of different systems. Subjects such as fair trade or climate change are often too difficult to understand at a glance. Systems thinking allows us to think about causes and consequences, about how the components relate to the whole, and to view it all from different perspectives. So, we unfold the issue like a blueprint, examining in detail the linkages and cogs of which the ‘machine’ is made, and zooming out to better understand the overall picture.
As with other thinking skills, it is also important in systems thinking to name, schematise and illustrate our thinking. After all, thinking is a process in which we respond to our own or others’ earlier thoughts or insights. So, a teacher can help to make children’s thinking visible by observing and listening carefully and by asking specific questions.

What does it mean?
Systems thinking helps us to build a nuanced world view that looks at a narrative from various points of view.

‘One can make better choices when they are based on insight into a situation and when its interconnectedness can be traced.’

Systems thinking and sustainability
Systems thinking is a way of examining the sustainability of our choices and of those made by others.

For example: Throwing just one piece of chewing gum on the ground seems harmless, but it is only when you map all the consequences and zoom out to view the whole picture that you can see the impact of that one piece on the whole. When a child understands that some means of transport emit CO2 and that these vehicles are one of the causes of an unhealthy planet, he can look for ideas with which to solve that problem.

Systems thinking helps us to investigate interconnection, both in school and in daily life.

For example: The decision on where to intervene in waste management, as an individual, can only be taken when one has a complete overview of the entire journey taken by our waste. Which is why it is important to map out an entire system before making a sustainable choice.

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