Global Systems Science (GSS) is an interdisciplinary, integrated course for high school students, based at the Lawrence Hall of Science at University of California, Berkeley. The course emphasizes how scientists from a wide variety of fields work together to understand significant problems of global impact.

In GSS, the "big ideas" of science are stressed, such as the concept of an interacting system, the co-evolution of the atmosphere and life, the goal of a sustainable world, and the important role that individuals play in both impacting and protecting our vulnerable global environment. GSS was developed by a collaborative team of teachers, scientists, and curriculum developers, so that it reflects both the cutting edge of modern interdisciplinary science, and the practical realities of the classroom.

The instructional materials for Global Systems Science consist of twelve Student Books and Teacher's Guides. Each focuses on a different aspect of global environmental change. GSS involves students actively in learning. They perform investigations and experiments in the classroom and at home. They read and discuss historical background materials. They "meet" a selection of scientists, both men and women, from a variety of ethnic and educational backgrounds. They consider the economic, political, and ethical issues associated with each problem area.

Collectively, the GSS books constitute a unique combination of studies in the natural and social sciences through which high school students may view the global environmental issues that they will confront within their lifetimes. One of our key goals is for students to make intelligent, informed decisions that can translate into personal actions, such as conserving energy, recycling, and preparing for their role as voting citizens in a modern industrialized society.

galaxy photo

Self-Organizing Systems (SOS)

...is a resource created by the originators of GSS (Richard Golden and Cary Sneider). It is a valuable concept to help students achieve a coherent view of the world/universe, an understanding of connections throughout nature, and an appreciation the unity of all scientific endeavor. Systems is a theme that all national science education reform programs embrace. To explore how these ideas can be easily woven into your teaching, read the article by Richard and Cary and visit the SOS website.
self-organizing systems figure 1


The GSS project provides the option of replacing hard copy textbooks with electronic files (e-books) that students read on computers at home and/or at school. This can reduce school textbook costs by an order of magnitude for schools where a significant number of students are ready to use e-textbooks in place of the hard copy books. See  Here is an interesting article pertinent to that: "Rates of Computer and Internet Use By Children in Nursery School and Students in Kindergarten Through Twelfth Grade: 2003." National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

For a considerably more "anti-computer" perspective, see the article " Fool's Gold: A Critical Look at Children and Computers - Alliance for Childhood." GSS is part of the
Digital Library for Earth System Education


GSS is highly compatible with the GLOBE project which enables students to take scientifically valid measurements in the fields of atmosphere, hydrology, soils, and land cover/phenology and report their data through the Internet to the GLOBE student data archive. GSS is also collaborating with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance (MMSA) in their current project to develop curriculum materials for GLOBE at the middle and high school levels.

Editorial comment from GSS Director, Alan Gould (2016 April 29):
While it's important to understand causes and effects of the climate change we are experiencing, it's far more important to understand the even larger context of the root causes of the problem and, by implication, the obvious solutions.


The GSS curriculum materials explore two root causes along with solutions:

  • in Energy Use, the devastating side effects of our fossil fuel based energy systems that include air pollution, climate change, economic instability, and threats to national security to name a few, and
  • in Population Growth, where it becomes obvious that all these problems would not exist without an excessively burgeoning human population that is still increasing exponentially.

By obvious solutions, in energy use I mean sustainable energy systems such as solar panel arrays, wind generators, biofuels, geothermal energy, and hydro-energy systems based on rivers, ocean tides and waves.

By obvious solutions, for exponential population growth, I mean finding ways to stop the exponential growth. One important aspect of that is education for women (and men) which often results in smaller families.