System Games!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014 by Becca Stanley and Kim Little

Looking for a fun pre or post visit activity to do with your students to help them understand systems? Try one of these easy system games!


System Game To Show Interdependence:

First, have everyone get in a circle. Then, have each person pick two people in the group, without telling anyone their choice. Tell the group that the goal is to move so that they are equidistant from the two people they picked. They have to keep adjusting their position based on where the other people are and should stop moving when they are equal distance (but not necessarily in a straight line) from their two people.  Sometimes groups come to a balance – sometimes they don’t in which case you can stop the group.


What happened? – Discuss cause and effect, balancing loops, reinforcing loops.


Discuss what people gained from the experience.



1) Have people hold hands up on each side of their eyes so they have limited vision.

2) After a minute or two take one (or more) people out of the system, see what happens.


System Game to show Exponential Growth:

Everyone is given a piece of paper with either a 1 or 2 on it. Most of the pieces of paper will have a 1 on it except for one or two pieces of paper (depending on the size of the group) which will have the number 2 on it.  All numbers should be kept a secret until the start of the game. Once everyone has received their number they should approach another person and whisper their number to them. If both people are a number 1 then nothing happens, and they move on to find someone else to exchange numbers with.  However, if one person is a number 2 and the other is a number 1, the number 1 becomes a number 2 for the rest of the game, and both people go find another person to exchange numbers with.  After about 30 seconds to a minute (again depending on the size of the group) stop the game.  Have all the 2s go to one side, and all the 1s go to the other.


Are there more 2s than 1s? Who started off as a 1?


Discuss how exponential works and how quickly it works. How is exponential afoot in our world?  How do we really experience exponential? What kinds of balancing loops need to be designed to keep exponential from causing collapse?

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