Teaching Lesson 3

The main task in this lesson is to get students comfortable with logic and conditional statements first through a table-top activity then in StarLogo Nova.  Another important CS concept to introduce is the concept of an algorithm, contrasting a simple step-by-step recipe versus a universal solution. 

Review the activities from Lesson 3 as well as the material below.  Reflect on how you would teach this in your class.  Post your reflection to your portfolio in "Portfolio->Module 1" under the heading "Lesson 3."

Learning Objectives:

The student will:

-   Learn that in complex adaptive systems one type of common interaction is that agents react to their environment. (LO14)

-   Create a model in which agents react to their environment (LO15)

-   Trace a program’s execution (LO16)

-   Experiment with adding branching and selection to their agents’ behavior (LO17)

-   Learn computer science concepts of booleans, logic, and conditionals.  (LO18)

-   Practice Pair Programming and Iterative design, implement, test cycle. (LO19)

-   Compare solutions to a problem using number of steps or number of instructions used (LO20)

Teaching Summary

Getting started – 5 minutes (Review

1.     Review of the previous day’s lesson and concepts and connection to today’s lesson.

            Activity 1: Trailblazer - 20 minutes (Guided Practice)

2.     Blazing a Trail and Comparing solutions

3.     New Concepts: branching and booleans

            Activity 2: Bumper Turtles Challenge  - 20 minutes  (Discovery / Creative

4.     Introduce new StarLogo Nova commands

5.     The Challenge

            Wrap-up - 5 minutes (Reflection)

6.     What does Bumper turtles have to do with modeling and simulation?

7.     What does Bumper turtles have to do with complex systems?

Assessment questions (suggested):
  • Is bumper turtles a model of a complex adaptive system?  Why or why not?
  • How would you assess the “best” solution?  [time taken, steps taken, fewest instructions]
  • What is the difference between if/then blocks in a row vs. nested if/then/else statements?
  • In your own worlds, how can the If/then logic block be used in a computer model to give an agent a behavior?
  • Is the path taken by turtles repeatable?  If I run the program again, will it produce the same drawing?  Why or why not?

NGSS Scientific and Engineering Practice Standards

Practice 1: Asking questions and defining problems

1A: Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results.

1D: Ask questions to clarify and/or refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem.

Practice 2: Developing and using models

2A: Evaluate limitations of a model for a proposed object or tool.

2B: Develop or modify a model—based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.

2E: Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

2G: Develop and/or use a model to generate data to test ideas about phenomena in natural or designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs, and those at unobservable scales.

Practice 4: Analyzing and interpreting data

4B: Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.

4E: Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including mean, median, mode, and variability) to analyze and characterize data, using digital tools when feasible.

Practice 5: Using mathematics and computational thinking

5A: Use digital tools (e.g., computers) to analyze data sets for patterns and trends.

5C: Create algorithms (a series of ordered steps) to solve a problem.


NGSS Crosscutting Concepts

1. Patterns:

1C: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

1D: Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

2. Cause and Effect:

2A: Relationships can be classified as causal or correlational, and correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

2B: Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

4. Systems and Systems models

4B: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

4C: Models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.


CSTA K-12 Computer Science Standards




Develop a simple understanding of algorithms using computer-free exercises.




Evaluate ways that different algorithms may be used to solve the same problem.




Explain how sequence, selection, iteration and recursion are the building blocks of algorithms.


Data representation


Use visual representation of problem state, structure and data.


Modeling & simulation


Interact with content-specific models and simulations to support learning and research.


Data collection & analysis


Collect and analyze data that are output from multiple runs of a computer program.




Implement a problem solution in a programming environment using looping behavior, conditional statements, logic, expressions, variables and functions.




Use various debugging and testing methods to ensure program correctness.


Responsiveness to varied student learning needs:

In Project GUTS, we integrate teaching strategies found to be effective with learners with various backgrounds and characteristics such as economically disadvantaged students (EDS), students from underrepresented groups in STEM (URG) , students with disabilities (DIS), English Language learners (ELL), girls and young women (FEM), students in alternative education (ALT), and gifted and talented students (GAT). In each lesson we describe the accommodations and differentiation strategies that are integrated in the activities to support a wide range of learners.

Module 1 Lesson 3: Trailblazer Activity and Bumper Turtle Challenge

(URG) We involve students in working in small groups for the Trailblazer table-top activity, a strategy that uses a multi-model experience to increase student engagement. involve students in working in small groups for the Trailblazer table-top game/activity, a strategy that uses a multi-modal experience to increase student engagement.

(DIS) Across both the Trailblazer and Bumper Turtles Challenge, we provide multiple means of action, expression, representation and engagement by introducing a game and a design and build programming activity that build on the same underlying concepts.  These are all principles of Universal Design for Learning.

(URG)(DIS) We use technology to present information in multiple modes of representations. In the StarLogo Nova modeling and simulation environment students can present information as code blocks, text, visual imagery, and as data in tables and graphs.

(FEM) We recommend careful planning of partners for pair programming in the Bumper Turtle Challenge activity, a practice that encourages participation for the girls in science.