AP Environmental Science

AP Environmental Science
Syllabus for Sharyland High School
Class Profile
Section size of the class has been 25-30 students in the past and this year the number is in that
range. The course is scheduled for the fall term and will begin August 24th and the exam is
scheduled for May 2nd, 2016. Our school is currently using an accelerated block schedule for
most the classes. A block is 90 minutes five days a week. This term is 16 weeks long and has
79 instructional days.
Course Prerequisites
Our students are required to take Biology I, Chemistry I, Physics I, and one more upper level
science course to qualify for the Distinguished Academic program seal, and also for the Texas
Scholar seal, therefore, all the students in the Environmental Science AP course will have at
least the three first year courses completed or be taking Physics I concurrently with the
Environmental Science AP course. Four courses of Mathematics are also recommended for
our graduates including Algebra I and II, Geometry, Pre-calculus, with Calculus I or Calculus
AP-AB offered to advanced students.
Course Overview
The course will follow all the objectives set forth in the Course Description for Environmental
Science which is designed to be equivalent to one semester of introductory college level
environmental science and well include classroom lecture as well as laboratory and field
investigations. Emphasis well be placed on the scientific principles, concepts, and
methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify
and analyze environmental problems both natural and man-made, to evaluate the risks
associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving and
prevented these problems.
The class will maintain a laboratory manual, and submit formal laboratory reports as assigned.
The class is expected to complete the assigned readings, from the handouts, plus supplemental
readings and case studies appropriate to the topics being covered. Examinations will be
approximately every third week or as needed to check on understanding. The exams will use
the format as used in the [email protected] Environmental Science course study guides and reflect the level
of difficulty and content as listed in the Topic Outline. A wide diversity of students have
registered for the course so a variety of strategies and approaches to topics will be used to
present the information and evaluate the progress of the students as well as the examinations.
Projects, presentations, labs, field trips, are all planned to develop as broad of an experience
as possible in the time we have for the course.
Miller, G. Tyler. Working with the Earth. 18th edition 2015.
Cunningham, Environmental Science a Global Concern. 13th edition 2015
Molles Jr, Manuel. Ecology, Concepts and Applications. 3rd edition 2005.
McConnel. Environmental Issues, Looking Towards a Sustainable Future. 4th edition 2013
Laboratory Manual Other sources more current and appropriate for laboratory work will
also be used as needed to fulfill the laboratory requirements.
Course Schedule/Planner
Week 1
Earth Systems and Resources
Earth structure to include the layers of earth, dynamics of crust, plate tectonics, rock
cycle, erosion and weathering, soil formation, geologic time scale, and our place in
solar system. This will be a short review of earth science and will be reviewed as we
progress through the other units. Short outdoor walks and surveys will be done to
enrich our understanding of the topics explored this week.
Week 2
The Atmosphere
The composition and structure of the atmosphere; gases present and why each is
important. Weather and climate and what the differences are and what influences
climate. Atmospheric circulation and the various wind belts and the Coriolis effect
on winds. Special concerns of the atmosphere such as el Nino and la Nina.
Exam 1 will be given on the material covered to date.
Weeks 3 - 4
The Hydrosphere
Freshwater and Saltwater; abundance of each, physical and chemical properties of
each type. Ocean circulations and types of currents, relate Coriolis effect,
temperature, salinity and location and their effects on land masses. Sea level rise, and
global warming concerns regarding the oceans. Freshwater abundance; availability,
uses of; such as agriculture, industry, and domestic needs. Surface and groundwater
issues, and how its effects are being examined. A variety of laboratory activities will
be used; thermohaline currents are studied, and water treatment processes, testing
water for quality and various nutrients are planned during this unit.
Weeks 5-6
Many familiar concepts of ecology will be covered, niches, competitions, definitions
key words and expressions used in environmental science will be covered in this unit.
Biomes, succession, pyramids for energy, biomass, producers and consumers, and a
review of biological processes, like photosynthesis and respiration, are planned to be
studied. Importance of biodiversity and selection processes will be reviewed as well.
Various repeating trends or patterns over time will be examined, such as heating and
cooling periods, major extinctions and other ecosystem changes. Evaluation will be
done with presentations by students on major biomes and their biotic and abiotic
characteristics. Exam 2 will be given this week. It will be comprehensive and be
formatted in the style of an AP exam to give students practice for the May exam.
Week 7
Natural biogeochemical cycles
The carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur, water, rock cycles will be studied and a
general understanding of the finiteness of earth should be gained by studying these
Week 8
Populations and Resources
Population concepts such as carrying capacity, fertility rate, mortality rate, statistics,
growth rates across the globe, demographic studies of developed and undeveloped
nations, age-structure diagrams and potential problems associated with various regions
and continents in sustaining the status quo, national policies and concerns regarding
population size. Impacts of human population growth on the use of resources, and the
effects on other species, habitat destruction, and land and water use are presented.
Agricultural issues; food for the world, green revolution, use of pesticides, fertilizers,
energy demands of the growing human population, sustainability of present practices
will be discussed and a project on food and the underdeveloped nations will be done
by the students to make it clear that there are problems in feeding an exponentially
growing population. Discussion on solutions will be presented.
Other natural resources such as forestry practices and misuse of the world’s forests
and grasslands and rangelands are topics for studying. Major topics of land use and
misuse will be presented and many of the problems of these misuses, like
urbanization, transportation infrastructure, mining, deforestation, desertification,
wetland loss, and garbage wastes will be presented to students, along with legal and
political case studies relevant to the myriad of issues are used for a better
understanding of this broad topic. Exam 3 will be given. Semester 1 Final Exam is
also administered during week 8 of the semester!
Weeks 9-10
This unit will be an examination of energy consumption, its growth since the industrial
revolution, world’s reserves and how a world’s growing population will use the
reserves. In the same unit we look at alternative sources, such as renewable energy
sources, ways to conserve energy, and innovations that may relieve our fossil fuel
dependency. Global warming and degradation of the environment by the search for
and the burning of fossil fuels will be an ongoing topic of study and concern in the
class. Many issues covered in the previous 8 weeks of the course are integral to this
topic and will have been introduced previous to this particular time frame, but a more
thorough examination of energy will be given this week. Exam 4 will be
comprehensive and follow the format of the AP exam.
Weeks 11 - 12
Energy and Pollution
As we progress in our understanding of energy and the need for energy to exist, the
issues of what to do with all the wasted heat and byproducts of energy consumption
logically leads to a study of pollution. The students will look at the fallout of our
present uses of energy in the many forms of pollution it has thrust upon the
environment. Pollution from many causes will be studied in this unit. Water, air,
solid waste, noise, and thermal pollution will be studied by the class and ‘cause and
effect’ and remediation attempts will be offered. Laboratory activities will be used to
show the impact oil pollution has on the environment and a method to break down oil
spills by bacterial action will be done by the class. Water contamination will be
looked at and tests for certain common contaminants in a water sample will be
analyzed. Certainly, the ozone depletion by CFC’s and the high levels of heavy
metals in fishes and other environmental crises will be gone over by the students.
Case studies of specific disasters will be investigated. (We have an EPA group in our
city disassembling a Vietnam era chemical factory that made ingredients for agent
orange. That brings this subject very close to home. Our total water supply is from
the Rio Grande which is considered one of the top ten most polluted rivers in studies.)
To study this unit we only have to get up in the morning!
Weeks 13 -14
Global changes
As the world’s population grows changes in the environment are inevitable. In this
uit we will study the many impacts humans have had on the world and discuss health
issues caused by malnutrition, disease spread by poor sanitation practices, lack of
medical resources faced by much of the world, the proliferation of chemicals in our
environment, global warming, loss of habitat and subsequent loss of species (loss of
Exam 5 will be a comprehensive exam over all the AP Environmental Science
objectives in preparation for the exam.
Weeks 15- 16
Final thoughts and preparation for the AP exam
These weeks represents the time when the AP Environmental Science exam occurs.
Any time available will be in preparing the students for the exam with a review
of all the topics covered in the course and practice exams.
Teaching Strategies:
A course of this nature presented in a college would have a lecture component to it
and so it will be used in this course as well. Information of factual or conceptual
nature is easily presented with lecture and the students are responsible for this
information. Graphics and other visuals are presented with a computer/projector
combination and use of the internet is used extensively to find the latest information
regarding most of the topics in the course. The text book is used modestly, mostly for
a source of definitions and terms applicable to the course and exam. A typical lecture
will have a lot of discussion and questioning so it is rather informal.
Small Groups
Since the class is expected to be rather small in number, small groups are easy to use
in doing projects, posters, presentations, Internet research, and working on
assignments. In previous AP classes I have taught the small group approach works for
lab activities as well.
Laboratory Component
Texas Education Association requires up to 40% lab time. In the situation I have with
accelerated block lab experience is more in the line of 20% or once a week.
Some laboratory activities I will do are:
Population study of plants by transect and random methods.
Capture and recapture of butterflies for population sampling methods
Thermohaline currents and Greenland’s glacial melting and its potential effect on the
Gulf Stream.
Lab on light and latitude, frequency (color) of light and its effect on temp. and the
absorption of heat.
Water quality and measure of nutrients and contaminates with a LaMotte water test kit
Soil nutrients and soil profiling lab
Water studies at a local park, study of physical conditions like temp, turbidity,
dissolved gases, Secchi disk readings, pH, other parameters affecting pond water as
we can with the equipment available.
Water treatment using primary and secondary methods and how water filters compare
in treating or purifying drinking water.
Global warming computer simulation to predict the future of the world’s climate.
Student Evaluation
The students are graded for the course as follows:
Major examinations and presentations are 60% of the grade. Small projects, laboratory
reports, classwork, and homework/written assignments are 40% of the grade.
Lab reports are written in a dedicated lab manual and at least one per three weeks will
be presented this way.
Examinations are scheduled so one major exam occurs every third week as well. That
follows our block schedule grading report periods.
Homework and classwork is more frequent and weekly assignments are expected.