Science 26, 32 • English Language Arts 28 • Multidisciplinary 31 • Social Studies 34 • Tip 35
By Eric Klopfer, Hal Scheintaub, Wendy Huang, and Daniel Wendel
How will the ecology of Silver Lake change
if an invasive species is introduced? Will
the biodiversity be affected?
T o some, these sound like ques- tions for a practicing scientist. To thers, they address Massachusetts biology standards 6. 2 and 6. 3. For
high school students learning to use
the free modeling software StarLogo
TNG (The Next Generation), they are
the guiding questions for building a
simulation that models the ecological
concepts they are studying in class.
StarLogo TNG (http://education.
by the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP), builds on the
long Logo tradition of creating languages that make computer programming accessible, fun, and educational.
StarLogo TNG is designed to make
it easy for students and teachers to
explore, modify, and even create computer simulations and games.
Figure 1: The Starlogo Tng programming interface consists of a palette of commands
that students can place on the programming canvas.
Many educators and scientists, including those at MIT’s STEP, believe that
to prepare the next generation of scientifically literate citizens and inspire
students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
careers, the curricula must include
the skills and knowledge of simulation science. Constructing and using
computer simulations has been called
“the third way of doing science,” after
traditional experimentation and ob-servation/description.
Simulations have revolutionized
modern science, allowing investigators
to understand processes that happen
across scales and in systems contain-
ing large numbers of interacting
agents. Simulations help chemists see
how interactions that are otherwise
invisible at the molecular level are
responsible for measurable physical
characteristics of a substance. They are
invaluable to an epidemiologist’s un-
derstanding of how a disease spreads
in a population. It is time for models
and simulations to help chemistry,
physics, and biology students see and
understand the world in new and
Painting with Blocks
At first glance, building simulations
may seem like a daunting class activity. Most science teachers have not