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Systems Thinking Through Storytelling

by | Nov 16, 2023


“”The recent webinar hosted by the System Dynamics Society featured Linda Booth Sweeney and Philip Ramsey, offering an overview of the world of systems thinking and its application in education and storytelling. Linda, an accomplished educator and author, shared her journey in integrating systems thinking into various educational materials and books. Philip Ramsey, an author and senior lecturer at Massey University, New Zealand, discussed his Billy Bonk and Frankel series, aimed at teaching systems thinking to children.

Linda Booth Sweeney: Bridging Systems Thinking and Storytelling

Linda emphasized the importance of early exposure to systems thinking, noting that it can become a habitual way of thinking if introduced at a young age. Her approach involves using simple, yet powerful, questions to encourage children to visualize and discuss the connections in the world around them. She introduced her new book, “Apart Together,” which aims to cultivate systems literacy, a growth mindset, and resilience in children.

Key Takeaways from Linda’s Presentation:

Early Systems Thinking: Linda highlighted the necessity of introducing systems thinking to children, potentially preventing the fragmentation of knowledge as they grow older.

Curious About Connections: She introduced her methodology involving three questions – “What’s happening here?”, “What if this is connected to that?”, and “What caused what to change?” – to help children visualize and think about systems.

Access the free companion guide when you subscribe to the “Curious About Connections” Newsletter here.

Practical Implementation: Linda shared how her methodology and book can be utilized in various everyday scenarios, from family discussions to classroom settings, to instill a sense of curiosity and interconnectedness in children.

Philip Ramsey: Storytelling with Systems Thinking

Philip Ramsey’s part of the webinar focused on his Billy Bonk and Frankel series, republished recently with the help of the System Dynamics Society. These books are designed to teach systems thinking to children around age 10. He emphasized the role of storytelling in making complex concepts accessible and engaging for young minds.

Key Insights from Philip’s Presentation:

Targeted Age Group: Philip’s books are primarily aimed at children around 9-11 years old, making them a suitable tool for educators and parents to introduce systems thinking at a slightly more advanced level.

The Power of Storytelling: He underscored storytelling as an effective method to communicate systems thinking concepts, making them relatable and easier to understand for children.

Series Development: The Billy Bonk and Frankel series were developed to not only entertain but also educate children, demonstrating the practical application of systems thinking in various scenarios.

The webinar with Linda Booth Sweeney and Philip Ramsey was an enlightening exploration of systems thinking through storytelling. Linda’s approach of simple questioning to induce systems thinking in young children and Philip’s use of storytelling to teach more complex systems concepts to older children present a framework for educators and parents. These methods can be instrumental in fostering an early understanding and appreciation of systems thinking, shaping a more aware and connected generation.

Watch the recording below

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About the Speakers

Linda Booth Sweeney is an educator, writer and strategist for healthy socio-ecological systems change, Dr. Linda Booth Sweeney is internationally recognized for her efforts to make systems thinking actionable by a wide range of audiences. In her Systems Leadership Labs, Linda creates experiences for leaders to think differently, and to experiment with language, visualization tools and knowledge architecture that better mirrors the complexity they are navigating. She is co-author of The Systems Thinking PlaybookThe Climate Change Playbook, and numerous other books and journal articles. Her newly published book, Apart, Togetheris a gentle introduction to systems thinking for children.  Linda holds her doctorate from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and lives outside of Boston where she enjoys swimming in Walden Pond and amateur farming.  For more information, see:




How Children’s Stories Help Us See Real-World Patterns (on

PBS Learning Media Systems Literacy Pilot

Philip Ramsey is the author of the Billibonk and Frankl series, jungle-based fables aimed at teaching children systems thinking through fascinating animal adventures. Phil is a Senior lecturer at Massey University in New Zealand, where he teaches Organizational Learning, Leadership, and Teamwork. He also works as a Director of Incite Learning, a consulting company that mainly works with schools, helping school leaders apply Organizational Learning concepts to solve tough problems.

Billibonk and Frankl Series

Billibonk and the Thorn Patch Front Cover
Billibonk and the Bugs
The Floods of Knith Cover: Billibonk and Frankl Story
The Dark Jungle Billibonk Series Front Cover