Self-Organizing Systems

— giving us a universe of surprise

About Self-Organizing Systems

The information on this web site is for the teacher who realizes the need to help students achieve a coherent view of the world and understand the unity of the scientific endeavor. Nature is one place and the division of the sciences is arbitrary.

The recommendation of national science education reform programs is that teachers of science present unifying principles as a means to achieve that coherent world view. The unifying theme they all agree on is the concept of systems; what they are and how they work. The National Research Council put it this way, "the goal of science education is to provide students with a organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world." (NRC, 2012 Pg. 83)

Teachers can easily add the core concepts of systems to their teaching by bringing a few special words into the conversation. The central ideas of systems can be incorporated into everyday lessons simply by using the words system, self-organization, emergence, and organizing principles. Everything in biology is a self-organized system. Chemical reactions result in the emergence of new products with new properties. Organizing principles determine how physical systems from atoms to galaxies are formed.

A document, "Self-Organizing Systems: Experiences in the Classroom," is planned. It will be made up of classroom experiences of how teachers have successfully incorporated these ideas into their teaching.

Please communicate to the author at All published material will include name and school of the contributor. If a PDF version of this document is preferred it can be accessed below. Corrections and additions to this document would be appreciated.

Download the PDF here.