At a Glance

Discipline

  • Environmental Science

Instructional Level

  • University

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Writing

Technical Details

Class size

  • Small (20-49)

Time

Single class period (< 90 mins)

Overview

This activity is intended to demonstrate the complexity of systems. Students participate in a ball toss exercise and then build a systems diagram of the ball toss guided by the instructor.

Before class, the instructor brings 3 tennis balls and a timer and reviews system diagrams. In class, the students participate in a bowl toss going through several rounds.

  • Round 1: Students stand in a circle and each toss the ball to someone so that everyone gets tossed to once.
  • Round 2: Students repeat Round 1, tossing to the same individual, but they are timed (this generally takes 45 s and ...
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This activity is intended to demonstrate the complexity of systems. Students participate in a ball toss exercise and then build a systems diagram of the ball toss guided by the instructor.

Before class, the instructor brings 3 tennis balls and a timer and reviews system diagrams. In class, the students participate in a bowl toss going through several rounds.

  • Round 1: Students stand in a circle and each toss the ball to someone so that everyone gets tossed to once.
  • Round 2: Students repeat Round 1, tossing to the same individual, but they are timed (this generally takes 45 s and any round can have multiple tries). The instructor then tells students that they can perform this activity in 10 s.
  • Round 3: Students repeat this task a few times and usually it takes approximately 25 s.
  • Round 4: Two more balls are added to the circle and again, each student must pass to whom they passed to in Round 1. Round 4 creates chaos within the circle and demonstrates the complexity of systems with many moving parts. The instructor tells students that there is no specific order in which this activity can be performed (but they must pass to the same individual as in Round 1) and to think outside the box.
  • Round 5: Students again pass the ball around to each other but, after a few tries, they figure out that they can rearrange themselves in the circle so that the ball can be passed in a straight line and they then achieve the task in 10 s.

On the board, students write all of the limitations of the activity such as lag time, bottlenecks, relationships, etc.. The students (with guidance from the instructor) draw a systems diagram related to the ball activity on the board.

This activity is was used for a class size of 20 students.

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Instructional Objectives

To understand how a systems diagram is constructed. To understand the complexity of systems.

Workflow & Materials

Activity Workflow

Systems Ball Toss

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Contributor's Notes

Benefits

This activity get students into a different headspace; they are up on their feet, developing a solution ME real-time with the group and the instructor, and the activity is fun.

Challenges

Four instructor, drawing the diagram in real time, can be difficult depending on what the students say; the diagram will be different each time. The instructor really needs to clearly understand how to draw systems diagrams for this activity to be effective.

Tips

Practice drawing a systems diagram of the ball toss beforehand.

Applied Strategies

  1. 1
    Just in Time Teaching (JiTT)

Feedback

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