Learning to Connect the Dots: Developing Children’s Systems Literacy


| 10/12/2012 10:29:28 AM


Tags: Solutions Online, systems literacy, commons, children,

 Matchbox mini traffic jam
Matchbox mini traffic jam. Photo by Daniel Dionne, licensed under Creative Commons.
 

This article originally appeared at Solutions Online. 

The road construction project around the local rotary had been going on for over a year. As a result, the whole town was cranky. One afternoon, my son and I drove the rotary just before 5:00 p.m., along with throngs of irritable commuters, anxious to get home. Tempers were short and the sound of car horns pierced the air. Pointing to the tangle of traffic in front of us, my then four year-old asked: "Mommy, what happens when everyone says me first!?"

I was used to his asking questions. Typically, Jack asked about categories (“Animals aren’t people, are they?”), or how things work (“Why do bees kiss the flowers?”) or facts (“How hot is the center of the earth?”). This question was different; this one had to do with causes and consequences. I considered talking to him about the cost of maximizing individual gain, but held back and asked instead, "What do you think would happen if everyone said me first!?”

He pressed his nose against the window, paused, and said, “Well, there might be a lot of accidents. Or maybe even a huge crash!"

"Can you think of other times when everyone says me first?" I was thinking about overfishing, gas guzzlers, and our overcrowded community pool.