Paper
Clip Factory Analogy: a simple model, a simple system

Purpose

- To provide students with an opportunity to explore the essential components of a simple system or model by using a simulation activity in which students enact the parts of a paper clip manufacturing business.
- In order to develop an understanding of the components of a system that represents a simple model, students will be provided with the opportunity to collect and analyze data produced during the simulation as well as the chance to translate the data into a generalized 1-box model that can be manipulated to produce varying outcomes.

Overview

Students will work in small groups that represent the components of a simple paper clip manufacturing business including the factory, store, and customers. Through a simulation activity in which students act out the paper clip manufacturing system, students will take part in one part of a simple system. As a result of the simulation, students will identify and analyze the basic parts of a simple system or model including inputs, outputs, and stocks.

Essential Question

How does the paper clip factory simulation represent a simple system or model?

Student Outcomes

- Students will simulate a basic system that represents a simple model of a paper clip manufacturing business
- Students will collect data and record values in a data table and a graph during the simulation
- Students will analyze final data collection and describe patterns of the inputs and outputs of the paper clip factory system using qualitative descriptions and mathematical equations
- Students will explore the paper clip analogy and compare to the schematic diagram of a 1-box model labeled with key terms in order to learn these modeling terms
- Students will manipulate the variables of the model in order to obtain an expected outcome and analyze the strategy used for obtaining the particular outcome
- Students will write a response to the essential question: how does the paper clip factory simulation represent a simple system or model?

Science Concepts

- Modeling and modeling terms (e.g., pools, fluxes, equilibrium, steady state)
- Components of a system
- Using a model to explore different outcomes or scenarios

Time

60-90 minutes

Level

Middle & High School