Mi-STAR's Sample Lesson:  Systems and System ModelsImage of a yellow marble track with bells; a blue marble is in motion on the track and a young boy watches on in the background.

This lesson plan is designed to introduce students to the crosscutting concept of Systems and Systems Models, including supports for remote learning. In the Mi-STAR curriculum, system models help students make sense of real-world phenomena and problems such as: flooding in a watershed, teachers who are experiencing a mysterious illness, or a natural habitat that's being invaded by a new species. Students should experience this lesson prior to Unit 6.1: Water on the Move


A system is a set of related parts that can work together to carry out functions its individual parts cannot. Systems can be natural or designed; there are many interrelated systems in the natural universe and on Earth, such as Earth systems (atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere); ecosystems; and water systems. In engineering, systems are often used to carry out complex processes such as building a car or delivering water to a city or town. A system model is a tool that shows all the parts of the system and how these parts interact. System models are tools that scientists and engineers use to understand and design complicated systems. Often system models are useful to predict what will happen in a system if conditions in the system change.  

This lesson is a standalone learning experience that scaffolds and supports students so that they are prepared to engage in a full Mi-STAR unit. Learn more about Mi-STAR's Off-the-Shelf Lessons here.

This lesson is being shared as an Open Educational Resource (OER) under the creative commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/legalcode and https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/).

Image sources: 'Rube Goldberg machine' by Wikimedia Commons user Jeff Kubina, CC-BY-SA-2.0 ; 'Machine as a system' by Wikimedia Commons user Pieter Beyl, CC BY-SA 3.0
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Mi-STAR was founded in 2015 through generous support provided by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation. Mi-STAR has also received substantial support from the National Science Foundation, the MiSTEM Advisory Council through the Michigan Department of Education, and Michigan Technological University.