Connecting Everyday Objects to Bigger Systems

Adapted from Out of Eden Learn’s Curriculum, Core Learning Journey 2: The Past and the Global

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For this activity, you will explore what you can learn by looking closely at objects and thinking about how things that surround us connect to bigger systems.

Listen to this audio of Shari from the Out of Eden Learn team looking closely at an object and describing all the features she sees.


SYSTEM: A group of interacting parts that move or work together to make something happen

Choose an object in your home, classroom, or neighborhood.

Look closely at the object for at least five minutes and note down as many features as you can.

Write a list of questions or ‘wonders’ that you now have about your object. For example, here are some of Shari’s questions about the pencil she looked at: 

  • How are pencils made, and who makes them?

  • How do you get the lead inside the pencil? (Is it really lead?)

  • What kind of wood are pencils made of, and where does it come from?

  • What is the history of the pencil? Where was it invented?

  • What is the impact on the environment of making pencils?

Think about some different systems that your object might be part of. Here are some examples for Shari’s pencil: 

  • Pencils are probably made in a factory that has a system for making them.

  • Pencils are connected to a bigger system of writing, that includes other things like paper, people’s hands (to write with), notepads, erasers.

  • Pencils are connected to a system of trade because they are sold around the world.

  • Pencils are connected to a system of human communication because we write letters.

Choose one of the systems connected to the object and try to imagine the system in action.

Draw a diagram that shows the different parts of the system and how they might interact. If you want, you can do some research about the object, or the system it’s a part of, before drawing your diagram. Here is a slideshow of sample diagrams to get you inspired.

SHARE ONLINE (optional)

  • Follow OOEL on Twitter and Instagram: @OutofEdenLearn.
  • Share on social media photos of the object you looked at, your diagram, and your reflections using #EdenLearn!