IB Environmental Systems & Societies: 1.3 Tipping Points Activity

1.3 Tipping Points Activity

Investigating Tipping Points

This can be a tricky activity but it really helps students understand the concepts of tipping points and develop some real examples of where scientists have shown tipping points have occurred.


Students choose an example from the Resilience Alliance database, preferably a "demonstrated" example and present this example to the class. They should produce a labeled diagram to help explain the processes involved. These could be compiled in a variety of ways. One would be an online discussion board where students have to comment on each others examples. Another could be a padlet wall. Another could be a google map where students place pins (idea from Caroline Schley). Of course there is always the good old wall posters. In my first attempt, students took photos of their diagrams and uploaded them onto our discussion board for the activity (we have an internal virtual learning environment).

  • Visit the Resilience Alliance database.
  • Browse the list of examples.
  • Pay attention to the "Alternate Regimes"
  • Design a diagram that includes arrows showing a positive feedback loop.
  • This should show what "push factors" outlined in the "mechanism" section of the database move the system between the two states.
  • Look at the student work to see how they developed their case studies.
  • You should be able to explain these in an exam.


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