What is a system model?

November 8, 2020 No Comments

The Crosscutting Concepts of Systems and System Models is quickly becoming one of my favorites to use in my NGSS aligned middle school classes. I use this practice regularly in my classroom to help students understand the scope of what we are studying in class. Also, this concept works well with many Science and Engineering practices and other Crosscutting Concepts.

What is a system model?

A quick search about Systems and System models is likely leave you with more questions than answers. Read the information below to get answers to frequently asked questions about Systems and System Models.

For example, before you can understand what a system model is, you need to understand what a system is. Get more information below.

What is a system according to the NGSS?

The purpose of science is to make sense of the universe. But, the universe is too vast to study in its entirety. Instead, scientists focus on smaller pieces of the universe to study.

A system is just the part of the universe that we are choosing to study.  Systems come in all shapes and sizes. 

Examples of Systems

Because a systems is anything you choose to study, the examples of systems are limitless. here are just a few systems.

  • Solar System
  • The Geosphere on Earth
  • Your local ecosystem
  • An single organism (a frog, grass or ladybug)
  • Nervous System
  • A single cell
  • An atom

The system that is being studied is dependent on the phenomenon that you are using for your lessons.

Computer screen with digital graphic organizer

To see what this Crosscutting Concept looks like in middle school, check out this post.

What are natural and designed systems?

Natural systems are systems that we see in the natural world. These systems are things like planet, ecosystems, and cells.

In contrast, designed systems are human-created. For example, aqueducts and bicycles are examples of designed systems.

What are components of a system?

Components make up systems. They are essentially pieces of the system. For example, the components of the bicycle include the wheels, frame, seat, chain and pedals.

Connections to Energy and Matter

This Crosscutting Concept is very closely related to the CCC of Energy and Matter. This concept requires that students discuss the flow of energy and matter within and through a system. Therefore, it is important that students understand the CCC of Energy and Matter and how it relates to systems and system models.

To learn more about the CCC of Energy and Matter, check out this blog post.

What is an NGSS model?

It’s not hard to see that this Crosscutting Concept has strong ties to the Science and Engineering Practice of Developing and Using Models.

Models are simplified versions of the system that scientists construct in order to make sense of what is being studied.  Models allow scientists to share their ideas, explain phenomena, make predictions and so much more. To learn more about the Science and Engineering Practice of Developing and Using Models, read this post.

Models have limitations.

Models do not include all of the components. Because they are simplified, there are components that are missing. In other words, there are details that are left out. However, they must include the components that are relevant to the content that you are covering.

So, when students are creating models, it is helpful to list the components that should be covered.

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Erin Sadler

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