Jump to this Simulation/Interactive »
Daisyworld Model

James Lovelock, Andrew Watson, Dave Bice, Dept. of Geosciences, Penn State University

The simulation exercise uses a STELLA-based model called Daisyworld to explore concepts associated with Earth's energy balance and climate change. Students examine the evolution of a simplified model of an imaginary planet with only two species of life on its surface -- white and black daisies -- with different albedos. The daisies can alter the temperature of the surface where they are growing.

The amount of time required for this activity is extremely variable. A few class periods will need to be used to introduce the students to the model.

Discuss this Resource»
Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Earth's Energy balance
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1b
Sunlight warms the planet
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1a
Observations, experiments, and theory are used to construct and refine computer models
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5c

Energy Literacy

The Sun is the major source of energy for organisms and the ecosystems of which they are a part.
Other materials addressing:
3.1 The Sun is major source of energy for organisms and ecosystems.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:F) Working with models and simulations
Other materials addressing:
F) Working with models and simulations.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:C) Systems and connections
Other materials addressing:
C) Systems and connections.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.2 The Living Environment:D) Flow of matter and energy
Other materials addressing:
D) Flow of matter and energy.

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Light and other electromagnetic waves can warm objects. How much an object's temperature increases depends on how intense the light striking its surface is, how long the light shines on the object, and how much of the light is absorbed.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark
Computer modeling explores the logical consequences of a set of instructions and a set of data. The instructions and data input of a computer model try to represent the real world so the computer can show what would actually happen. In this way, computers assist people in making decisions by simulating the consequences of different possible decisions.
Explore the map of concepts related to this benchmark

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Lesson could be implemented as a AP high school system science resource or undergraduate level. Educators will require a thorough understanding of system modeling and the program interface of STELLA to be able to use this exercise in their classrooms. Students will need expert guidance to make effective use of this Daisyworld model.
  • Educators should discuss why the Daisyworld model is not a climate model, but rather a focus on balancing feedbacks.
  • It would be helpful to have graphs that show outcomes from the model, or some other means for instructors to check their students’ work.
  • Lesson could be contrasted to the Gaia Hypothesis and the Medea Hypothesis, which suggests that life provides reinforcing feedbacks that amplify change.

About the Science

  • Through their experiments with this simple model, students begin to understand how scientists use models to explore the effects of changes on systems.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Daisyworld Model contains a depth of scientific information. A good background/understanding of physics is needed to grasp concepts.

About the Pedagogy

  • The Daisyworld model embodies a number of important physics concepts. All equations are presented clearly with basic explanations. A physics background is required to understand the underpinnings of the model.
  • Experiments begin toward the end of the document.
  • The exercise demonstrates how hard it is to predict what even a simple model will do. The text encourages students to make their own predictions before running the simulation model. This enhances the potential for learning.
  • The main problem with this exercise is the time it takes to learn how to use the STELLA program interface.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Educators will need to download Daisyworld model from resource webpage and the trial version of STELLA from http://www.iseesystems.com. This will require a free account. The program is available for Windows and Macs.
  • Go to http://vensim.com/free-download/ for another way to download an easier user interface, as it works on Windows and Mac.
  • The help system on the http://www.iseesystems.com website does not appear to be working as of January 12, 2013. Without this support it is difficult to understand all the elements of the program interface.
  • Downloadable model is given in iSee Runtime 9.1.4, which requires PowerPC – not supported.

Jump to this Simulation/Interactive »

Have you used these materials with your students? Do you have insights to share with other educators about their use? Please share with the community by adding a comment below.

Please use this space only for discussion about teaching with these particular materials.
For more general discussion about teaching climate literacy please use our general discussion boards.
To report a problem or direct a comment to the CLEAN project team please use our feedback form (or the feedback link at the bottom of every page).
Off-topic posts will be deleted.

Join the Discussion

Log in to reply