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Computational Thinking and Modeling

NSTA Playlist


Crosscutting Concepts Is Lesson Plan NGSS Physical Science Science and Engineering Practices Three-Dimensional Learning Elementary Grade 5

What Are NSTA Playlists?

Playlists are bundles of resources to support contemporary Science/STEM teaching and learning placing equity at the center of instruction. These playlists contain instructional materials and/or assessment tasks for classroom use paired with professional learning resources to support implementation.


This playlist features introductory materials to engage students in computational thinking and modeling. The resources utilize StarLogo Nova, a blocks-based programming environment that allows students to program agents and their interactions by assembling code blocks. This playlist currently includes two resources:

  1. An orientation task where students program their first project with StarLogo Nova.
  2. A Science and Children article that depicts students developing computational models to help explain how a phenomenon occurs.



1 - StarLogo Nova Orientation Task

This introductory task guides students through programming their first computational model using StarLogo Nova. In this task, students will create a free StarLogo Nova account, and program a collision between two agents.

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Image of directions for using StarLogo Nova

2 - Integrating Computational Modeling Into Science Instruction With English Learners (Science and Children)

The purpose of this article is to describe why and how teachers can integrate computational modeling into NGSS-aligned science instruction with all students, including ELs. First, we describe the benefits of computational modeling and how teachers can integrate computational models into science instruction in a way that complements other model types they already use in their classrooms. Second, to illustrate these benefits, we describe how one fifth-grade teacher, Ms. Simon, integrated computational modeling into her science instruction. Specifically, we highlight how the affordances of different model types (physical, diagrammatic, computational) allowed all students, including ELs, to explain the phenomenon of garbage and develop deep understanding of physical and life science core ideas. Finally, we offer recommendations for teachers interested in integrating computational modeling into their science instruction with all students.

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Student computer model of decomposing banana

Asset 2