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Database Provider


New York DEP


6th, 7th, 8th


Science, Biology, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Lesson Plan
  • Activity - Classroom

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - Northeast, New York



Creating the Systems Thinking Web

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  • In this lesson, students learn about systems thinking by modeling an ecosystem web and exploring how components of that system impact each other.
  • Students will use string and organism interactions to demonstrate the interdependence in systems.
Teaching Tips


  • Students will love being up and moving around in this activity, and the yarn web is an impactful visual to help students understand systems.
  • Students can explore how scenarios like climate change impact the food chain system.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers will need a spool of string or yarn for this activity.
  • Students should take time to learn about their organism in the activity to participate.


  • Biology teachers can use this activity to introduce food webs.
  • If you have a large class, split into two groups for the activity and come back together to discuss and reflect at the end.
  • The lesson includes a few optional extension activities that can further student learning.
  • This lesson is intended for New York students; however, it is easy to apply anywhere by choosing a local ecosystem. The yarn activity can also model other systems, such as the water or carbon cycle.
  • Given a climate change-influenced disruption to the web, students can discuss solutions to reduce the impact on the rest of the system.
Scientist Notes
This resource from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection is a classroom activity that introduces students to systems thinking. The activity helps students quickly see the interconnectedness of each part of an animal food chain system, and the included extension guides students to see how climate change impacts each part of the system. The included instructions are clear, and the linked Teacher Friendly Guide to Climate Change chapter provides background and clearly answers why climate change education is so important. This resource is recommended for teaching.

This resource addresses the listed standards. To fully meet standards, search for more related resources.

  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-1. Develop a model to describe the cycling of Earth’s materials and the flow of energy that drives this process.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-4. Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
    • LS2: Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics
      • MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.
      • MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.
  • Related Resources


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