Lesson Plan:

Exploring Systems with a Classroom Systems Hunt

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May 4, 2016
by Tatum Omari

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to identify systems in their surrounding environment.


Introduction (5 minutes)

  • Tell your students that today they're going to hunt for systems that exist in their classroom.
  • Review the definition of a system with your students. A system is a collection of things or actions that work together as a connected whole.
  • As a class, review the definition of a heap. A heap is a group of parts that aren’t organized or connected to work together as a whole.

Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling (5 minutes)

  • Show your class the Systems and Heaps worksheet using a document camera, projector, or a similar device.
  • Explain that they'll record the different systems and heaps in the classroom on this handout.
  • Model how your students should move around the room to look for systems. When you encounter something to record on your worksheet, vocalize your thought process aloud to demonstrate how to classify what you've found. For example: I am going to put this in the systems section because... or I think this is a heap because...

Guided Practice/Interactive Modeling (5 minutes)

  • Ask for a student volunteer to model the process you just completed for the class.
  • Provide the volunteer with a clipboard and the Systems and Heaps worksheet.
  • Encourage the rest of the class to watch closely as the volunteer locates the first thing they're considering adding to their worksheet.
  • Remind the volunteer to think aloud to demonstrate how to classify each system or heap. For example: I am going to put this in the systems section because... or I think this is a heap because...
  • Depending upon the writing ability of your students, model recording the systems on the worksheet using both pictures and words.

Independent Working Time (10 minutes)

  • Instruct your students to circulate throughout the room hunting for systems and recording what they find on their worksheets.
  • Provide support as necessary to help students decide whether something is a system or a heap.



  • Support: Set out a few more concrete examples of systems and heaps for students to review before they set off to look for systems on their own. Work with a small group to help them solidify their understanding of what qualifies as a system vs. what qualifies as a heap. For example: a math balance scale that has not yet been assembled vs. one that has been assembled.

Related Books and/or Media

  • For more ideas on how to incorporate design thinking, making and system exploration visit Agency By Design.


Assessment (5 minutes)

  • Ask your students to gather on the rug.
  • Have the class share one example of a heap and one example of a system with a partner.

Review and Closing (5 minutes)

  • Tell your students that a great way to keep thinking about systems is to identify heaps that they believe could be organized into systems. Encourage everyone to be on the lookout for those opportunities, and to share any that they find with the class.

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