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SCZ611: AP Environmental Science (2012-2013)

CURRICULUM PROGRAM: Advanced Placement
COURSE TITLE: AP Environmental Science
CALENDAR YEAR: 2012-2013

About the Program:
AP Environmental Science provides an investigative approach to the interrelationships of the natural world through the study of the fundamental concepts, principles, and methodologies of environmental science, with an emphasis on inquiry and critical thinking skills including problem solving and experimental investigations. Topics of study include Earth systems and resources, ecosystems and energy flow, population biology, land and water use, energy resources and consumption, pollution, and global change. Laboratory work and field studies are an integral component of this course. Technology including graphing calculators, probe ware, graphing and data analysis software, and environmental sciences apparatus is used throughout this course.

Though our system has an open enrollment policy, students should understand that this course is designed to be a second year environmental science course, and the equivalent of a one semester-long, laboratory-based, introductory, college level environmental science course. The course requires a working knowledge of biology, chemistry and/or physics, and one year of algebra. The breadth, pace and depth of material covered exceeds the standard high school Environmental Science course, as does the college-level textbook, laboratory work, and time and effort required of students. Students are expected to take the AP Environmental Science Exam at the end of this course.

Laboratory Requirement: Students who take this course spend a minimum of 30% of their time engaged in hands-on laboratory exercises.

Major Concepts/Content: The AP Environmental Science course is designed to be the equivalent of an introductory college course in environmental science. Environmental science is an interdisciplinary course that embraces a wide variety of topics structured around unifying themes in science. These themes in AP Environmental Science are detailed in the AP Environmental Science course description, which is available on AP Central (

Course Objectives:

  • To understand the fundamental concepts and principles and methodologies of environmental science as a means to understand the interrelationships of the natural world.
  • To identify, investigate and analyze environmental issues and problems of the natural and man-made world.
  • To evaluate the relative risks of environmental issues and explore their resolution.
  • To develop problem solving skills, through the active asking and answering of testable questions, and employing the components of a well-designed experimental investigation.

Course Philosophy: Scientific inquiry is the basis of this course. Scientific inquiry is defined as the diverse ways in which scientists study the natural world and propose explanations based on the evidence derived from their work. Scientific inquiry also refers to the activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world (NSTA, 2004). This includes active use of the well-designed investigation in which students: 1) form testable questions and hypotheses, 2) design and conduct appropriate investigative procedures, including the identification and control of appropriate variables, 3) organize, display and critically analyze results, 4) draw inferences, summarize results and develop conclusions, and 5) communicate their results for critique by others. Based on the philosophy that scientific knowledge is best acquired through inquiry, the course uses a variety of techniques to promote inquiry in the classroom (ex. multiple revisions, high quality questioning, synthesis, making conclusions based on evidence, etc). Instruction is designed and sequenced to provide students with learning opportunities in the appropriate settings. They include laboratories, classrooms, forms of technology, and field studies. Teaching strategies include in depth laboratory investigations, demonstrations, collaborative peer-to-peer discussions, and student hands-on experiences. Inquiry requires adequate and timely access to the technology of scientific investigations including computers, internet and online resources, probe ware, graphing calculators, databases, spreadsheets, word processes and presentation software, as well as the experimental apparatus of environmental science.