From the VanLehn article, it seems as though agent-based modeling would the most valuable students to consider when modeling Zika. Agent-based modeling requires a large number of agents and predicts how the system will behave over time. Students can program the behavior of the agents and look at how the agents' behaviors affect the system as a whole. In looking at Zika, students will be able to program the behavior of the mosquitos, the people, and specific environmental conditions. This will provide them with a deeper understanding of what is critical for the spread of the virus and what impacts the virulence of it.
For students to begin this modeling exercise, the system needs to be presented to them in some way. In reading VanLehn's section on "methods for presenting systems", I view the "resources" method as most relevant. The students would be provided with a task (ex: modeling the spread of Zika) and information that is both relevant and irrelevant to the task. The information would be presented in a variety of ways (graphs, tables, papers, video, diagrams, etc.), and students would have to determine what information was necessary to include in their model and what information was not. This requires students to think critically about the system they are exploring and provides them with plenty of opportunity to revise their model during the process as information becomes more or less necessary. I also think the "virtual lab and virtual field studies" method could be helpful for students. As students simulate collecting data and exploring the environment where Zika thrives, they would be taking note of what elements they see as necessary to include in their model. The whole class could divide up different research questions and pool their information as well to increase collaboration.
When students are being introduced to modeling exercises, there need to be scaffolds in place for student success. VanLehn discusses several different types of scaffolds that could be useful for students, but the one that stood out to me as most significant was tutoring. This tutoring could take place through computer hints or through person-to-person interaction. The computer hints would be helpful for students in the moment as they are moving through the construction of their model. They would be able to get assistance on the technical aspects of model construction. The person-to-person interaction would be helpful for students in reflecting on why they are doing certain things in constructing their model, which probes for deeper understanding and encourages model revision.