Preview - Evolution Of Populations

Computational Thinking in Science and Math

Intro to Learning with Computational Models

Several lessons in this curriculum use computational models designed using a piece of software called NetLogo. In this lesson, we will try to understand what computational models are and how to use them.

This lesson specifically focuses on learning science with computational models of emergent natural phenomena. Emergent phenomena are ones in which simple interactions between agents and their environment result in complex patterns. For example, a flock of birds (see below). 


In a flock of birds, most people assume that the "head" bird is a leader of the flock. However, flocks actually emerge from each bird following a simple set of rules regarding how close and how far they should be from their neighbors as well as general direction of travel. This means that the shape of a flock is emergent and not directed by any particular leader bird.

We can use computational models to study and make predictions about emergent behaviors as long as we have a realistic understanding of the rules followed by the individual agents. 

Learning Goals - 

  • In this lesson, we will use a NetLogo model about Forest Fires to learn about how to computationally study a scientific phenomenon.
  • We will learn how to engage in the scientific inquiry practices of constructing knowledge.
  • We will learn how to engage computational thinking practices.

We will focus on four computational thinking practices: data practices, modeling and simulation practices, computational problem solving practices, and systems thinking practices.

Let's get started!