Topic 1 – Systems and Models

Systems and Models is the first ESS topic because it lays the foundation for examining all the other topics we will explore during this course. The systems approach to science and the use of models to evaluate environmental issues are key ideas you should internalize and be able to apply to case studies in each of the other 6 ESS topics.

Chapter 4 of the ESS Course Companion corresponds with the material in Topic 1.

Objectives (Students will be able to…)

  • Outline the concept and characteristics of systems.
  • Apply the systems concept on a range of scales.
  • Define the terms open system, closed system and isolated system.
  • Describe how the first and second laws of thermodynamics are relevant to environmental systems.
  • Explain the nature of equilibria (the plural form of equilibrium).
  • Define and explain the principles of positive feedback and negative feedback.
  • Describe transfer and transformation processes.
  • Distinguish between flows (inputs and outputs) and storages (stock) in relation to systems.
  • Construct and analyze quantitative models involving flows and storages in a system.
  • Evaluate the strengths and limitations of models.

 Resources and Notes

ESS Topic 1 – Systems and Models notes

Follow this link to the Topic 1 page of another school’s DP ESS class. I highly recommend this site because it is extremely thorough and well-resourced.