Skip to content

Simulations to Teach Systems Thinking in High School

We have some high-school teachers who are interested in helping my students learn more about Systems Thinking. We can use ChatGPT to create powerful interactive simulations that run in a web browser. Here are some simulations would we recommend that can reinforce systems thinking.

System Thinking MicroSims for High School Students

Introducing high-school students to systems thinking through interactive simulations is a fantastic idea, as it not only makes learning more engaging but also provides a hands-on experience in understanding complex systems. Here are some simulation ideas that can help reinforce systems thinking:

  1. Ecosystem Simulation: Create a simulation that mimics an ecosystem, such as a forest or a coral reef. Students can interact with different elements like plants, animals, and weather patterns. They can see how changes in one part of the system (like deforestation or pollution) affect the whole ecosystem.

  2. Economic Market Simulation: Develop a simulation that models an economic market. This could include elements like supply and demand, pricing strategies, competition among businesses, and the impact of government policies. Students can experiment with different scenarios to see how they affect the market dynamics.

  3. Traffic Flow and Urban Planning Simulation: Create a simulation that shows how traffic flows in a city and how it is affected by various factors like road layouts, traffic lights, public transportation, and population growth. This can help students understand the complexity of urban planning and transportation systems.

  4. Climate Change Model: Build a simulation that demonstrates the impact of various factors on climate change, such as greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and energy consumption. Students can see how different actions can mitigate or exacerbate climate change.

  5. Healthcare System Simulation: Design a simulation that models a healthcare system. This could include aspects like patient flow, resource allocation, healthcare policies, and disease outbreaks. Students can learn about the challenges in managing a healthcare system and the impact of different policies and decisions.

  6. Social Network Dynamics: Create a simulation that explores the dynamics of social networks. This can include how information spreads, the impact of social media, and the formation of social groups and opinions. This can help students understand the complex interactions within social systems.

  7. Supply Chain and Logistics Simulation: Develop a simulation that models a supply chain for a product, from raw materials to manufacturing to distribution. This can help students understand the complexities and interdependencies in global trade and logistics.

  8. Water Resource Management Simulation: Build a simulation that deals with water resource management, including aspects like water distribution, usage, conservation, and the impact of droughts and floods.

When creating these simulations, it's important to include interactive elements and real-time feedback so students can see the immediate impact of their decisions. Also, incorporating challenges or specific goals can make the simulations more engaging and thought-provoking.


You Can you suggest any simpler applications to get us started? We can already simulate things like water flowing into and out of a bathtub or current flowing into and out of a battery. We also have written simulations of how thermostats work. These simulations all have input sliders so students can change things like the flow of water or current.



Certainly! Building on the simpler simulations you've already developed, here are some additional ideas that are straightforward yet effective in teaching the basics of systems thinking. These simulations can continue using input sliders for interactive learning:

  1. Predator-Prey Dynamics: Simulate a basic ecosystem with a predator and its prey. Students can adjust factors like the reproduction rate of the prey, the hunting efficiency of the predator, and natural death rates. This helps students understand the balance of ecosystems and how changes in one population affect the other.

  2. Simple Weather System: Create a basic model of a weather system where students can adjust variables like temperature, humidity, or wind speed to see how these factors influence weather patterns, like the formation of rain or snow.

  3. Plant Growth and Soil Nutrients: Simulate a plant's growth where students can adjust factors like water, sunlight, and soil nutrient levels. This can teach about the importance of balanced resources in natural systems.

  4. Basic Economic Supply-Demand Model: Create a simple market model where students can adjust the supply and demand curves for a product and observe how this affects the market price and equilibrium.

  5. Population Growth Model: Simulate population growth in a closed environment. Students can adjust birth rates, death rates, and carrying capacity to see how populations grow or decline over time.

  6. Simple Chemical Reactions: Simulate a basic chemical reaction, like the mixing of an acid and a base, where students can adjust the concentration of reactants and see the resulting reaction rate or product formation.

  7. Traffic Light Control System: Simulate a traffic intersection with adjustable traffic light timings. Students can see how changing light durations can impact traffic flow and congestion.

  8. Basic Electrical Circuit: Build on the battery simulation by introducing a simple electrical circuit with elements like resistors and capacitors. Students can adjust the resistance or capacitance to see how it affects current flow and voltage across components.

  9. Water Cycle Model: Create a simple model of the water cycle, including evaporation, condensation, and precipitation. Students can adjust factors like temperature and humidity to see how they affect the cycle.

  10. Simple Pendulum Motion: Simulate a pendulum and allow students to change parameters like length, mass, and gravitational force to observe changes in the pendulum's period and motion.

These simulations are simple enough to be understood by high school students but also sophisticated enough to demonstrate key principles of systems thinking, such as feedback loops, equilibrium, and dynamic change.