The use of calculators is not allowed on either section of the exam

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A.P. Environmental Science Syllabus

The AP Environmental Science course is designed to be the equivalent of a one-semester, introductory college course in environmental science. The goal of the AP Environmental Science course is to provide students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world, to identify and analyze environmental problems both natural and human-made, to evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and to examine alternative solutions for resolving or preventing them. The following themes provide a foundation for the structure of the AP Environmental Science course:

1) Science is a process.

2) Energy conversions underlie all ecological processes.

  3) The Earth itself is one interconnected system.

  4) Humans alter natural systems. 

5) Environmental problems have a cultural and social context.

  6) Human survival depends on developing practices that will achieve sustainable systems.


The AP Exam

  The AP Environmental Science Exam is three hours long and is divided equally in time between a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. The multiple-choice section, which constitutes 60 percent of the final grade, consists of 100 multiple-choice questions that are designed to cover the breadth of the students’ knowledge and understanding of environmental science. The number of multiple-choice questions taken from each major topic is reflected in the percentage of the course as designated in the topic outline.


The free response section emphasizes the application of principles in greater depth. Four free-response questions are included in this section, which constitutes 40 percent of the final grade: 1 data-set question, 1 document-based question, and 2 synthesis and evaluation questions.


The use of calculators is not allowed on either section of the exam.

The above information is from: AP Environmental Science Teacher’s Guide. Copyright 2003 by the College Entrance Examination Board. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Lab and Field Work Laboratory and Field work is critical for student understanding and mastery of AP Environmental Science (APES) concepts, and the labs we will perform to learn about different topics are listed in the syllabus next to the topic. Scientific technical skills that are expected to be mastered are explained below and noted in the syllabus.

  1. The course provides students with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships of the natural world and the curriculum draws upon various scientific disciplines. Focus is on student-designed inquiry labs and rigorous experiments that draw upon various methodologies in life and earth science. Labs and activities with a SM denote a lab with a heavy focus on experimental design or scientific methodology.

  1. The course includes methods for analyzing and interpreting information and experimental data, including mathematical calculations. This component is addressed in labs that analyze student experimental data, as well as real-world data sets, and is denoted by a DS.

  2. Some activities address specific mathematical calculations used in the field of environmental science, such as population doubling time or energy calculations. Labs with specific environmental calculations are denoted EC.

  1. Field work is a significant portion of this class, as it is important to actually do environmental science in the natural environment. If a lab includes a field work component (meaning we do science outside around campus or on a field trip) a FW is denoted in the syllabus.

  1. The course teaches students how to identify and analyze environmental problems, to evaluate the ecological and human health risks associated with these problems, and to critically examine various solutions for resolving or preventing them. Case studies and Socratic seminars are integrated in the units throughout the year to focus on developing these skills.

Grading and Late Work Policies Grading Policy

Unit Tests 60%

Labs 20%

Quizzes 15%

Homework/Classwork 5%

Unit Tests All unit tests will mimic the AP environmental exam as closely as possible, meaning there will always be a multiple choice and essay portion, and may contain cumulative questions. Additionally, each unit test will have a practical lab station, so it is important to understand what is happening in lab as you may be asked to perform a procedure again on a test. Students will be given a test review before all tests. If a student fails a test, they have five days to make corrections on the multiple choice portion of the test to raise their score to a maximum of a 70.

Student Supplies Needed for APES

1) Pens/Pencils – no work in red or pink ink will be accepted

2) Binder (to hold class notes and assignments)

3) Composition notebook – for learning portfolio work

4) Supplies for general class use: _________________________________________________

Unit 1: Abiotic Factors of the Environment: Rocks, Water, and Climate

August 27-September 13

Major Topic

Sub topics

Corresponding Course Topic Outline Section


Associated Lab Activity/Experience

Intro to Environmental Science

Intro chapter from Hot, Flat and Crowded by Friedman

Socratic seminar


geologic time scale, plate tectonics, earth quakes, volcanism, rock cycle

I. A and D

Geology Basics pg. 80-81

Rock Cycle

pg 83-84

Rock Cycle demo and activity


solar intensity and latitude, weather and climate, seasons

I. A


pg. 470-473

Online climate/solar intensity/latitude activity with climatograms. DS

Climate Variation

Ocean circulation, atmosphere-ocean interactions

I. B and C


pg 466-470,

Aral Sea Disaster DS


freshwater/saltwater, agricultural, industrial, domestic use, conservation, global problems, surface/groundwater issues, water cycle

I. C

Water cycle

pg 82-83

Design a water conservation lifestyle EC

Water quality monitoring field trip to “stream” behind Westwood DS, FW

Unit 1 Vocabulary: vadose zone, recharge zone, discharge/artesian zone, zone of saturation, karst, groundwater, water table, hydrologic cycle, surface water, surface runoff, watershed, plate tectonics, divergent plate boundary, convergent plate boundary, transform fault, subduction, tsunami, global diming, desalination, reverse osmosis, El Nino (ENSO), asthenosphere, lithosphere, climate, weather

Unit 2: Abiotic Factors of the Environment: The Atmosphere and Change

September 17 - October 1

Major Topic

Sub topics

Corresponding Course Topic Outline Section


Associated Lab Activity/Experience

The Atmosphere

Composition and structure, atmospheric circulation and the coriolis effect, ENSO

I. B


pg 466-470,

El Nino

pg. 486-488

Stratospheric ozone

formation of stratospheric ozone, UV radiation, causes of ozone depletion, effects of ozone depletion, strategies for reducing ozone depletion, relevant laws


Ozone Depletion

pg. 549-567

Inquiry lab – UV sensitive bacteria SM, DS

Intro to Global Warming


Section from Climate Change from NWEI

Socratic Seminar

Global Warming

Greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect, impact and consequences of global warming, reducing climate change, relevant laws and treaties, carbon cycle



Carbon Cycle

pg. 87-91

Global warming

pg. 471-501

Mini-lab: Personal CO2 calculator EC

Mini-lab: Ocean Acidification DS

Graphing historic CO2 levels SM, DS

Unit 2 Vocabulary: troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, stratospheric ozone layer, ozone, sedimentation, rain out, oxidation, photodissociation – (last 4 terms relating to the atmosphere) UVA, UVB, UVC, Dobson unit (DU), chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), hydroflurorocarbons or hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HFC), Montreal Protocol, global circulation models (GCMs) precautionary principle, polar amplification, Kyoto Protocol,

Unit 3: Biotic Factors of the Environment – Ecology

September 28 – October 19

Major Topic

Sub topics

Corresponding Course Topic Outline Section



Associated Lab Activity/Experience

Intro to Ecology


Wetlands articles from New York Times

Socratic Seminar

Ecosystem Structure

biological population and communities, ecological niches, interaction among species, ecosystem services


Chapter 6 Ecology

pg. 97-111

Mini-Lab: Ecosystem field walk FW

Inquiry lab: Aquatic Ecology (elodea and snails) SM, DS

Energy Flow

Photosynthesis and cellular respiration, food webs and trophic levels, ecological pyramids


Chapter 9

Productivity and Energy

pg. 162-174

Mini lab: Owl Pellet and biomass lab DS EC

Grass Primary productivity DS, EC

Natural Ecosystem Change

Climate shifts, species movement, ecological succession. Forestry – tree plantations, old-growth forests, forest fires and management


Chapter 9

Case Studies: Fire policy in public lands, pine bark beetle

Biogeochemical Cycles

Nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur cycles, conservation of matter


Biogeochemical cycles

pg. 73-80, 84-86, 91-95

Unit 3 Vocabulary: mutualism, commensalism, parasitism, biological production, chemoautotroph, ecosystem, biomass, trophic level, autotrophs, heterotrophs, succession, primary production, secondary production, respiration (CAREFUL), gross production, net production, law of conservation of energy, 1st law of thermodynamics, 2nd law of thermodynamics, trophic-level efficiency, biogeochemical cycle, denitrification, nitrogen fixation

Unit 4: Species Diversity

October 24 – November 5

Major Topic

Sub topics

Corresponding Course Topic Outline Section


Associated Lab Activity/Experience

Natural Selection and Evolution

Natural Selection and Evolution


Chapter 7

Biological Diversity

pg. 113-134

Mini- lab: Evolution and variation in populations of insects SM, DS

Mini-lab: To Pick or not to Pick natural selection EC


Keystone species, biodiversity, species diversity and edge effects, calculating biodiversity


Chapter 7 continued

Species diversity and Simpson's index DS, SM, EC, FW

Loss of Biodiversity

Loss of biodiversity, introduced species, habitat loss, overuse, pollution, endangered/extinct species, maintenance through conservation, relevant laws/treaties


Conservation and Loss of Biodiversity


pg. 239-243

pg. 188, 193-210

Mini-lab: Endangered species activity


terrestrial and aquatic biomes


Chapter 8


pg. 135-160

Biomes internet activity

Unit 4 Vocabulary: ecological niche, competitive exclusion principle, resource partitioning, genetic drift, adaptive radiation, community, population, habitat, divergent evolution, convergent evolution, habitat island, U.S. Endangered Species ACT (ESA), introduced species, endangered species, threatened species, CITIES treaty, HIPPCO

Unit 5: Population

November 7 –November 30

Major Topic

Sub topics

Corresponding Course Topic Outline Section


Associated Lab Activity/Experience

Intro to Population

Special population section from the journal Science

Socratic Seminar

Population Biology

Population ecology, carrying capacity, reproductive strategies, survivorship


Population biology


pg. 108-115

Mini Lab: Oh Deer DS, EC, FW

Exponential population growth in yeast DS, SM, EC

Human Population – Calculations

III. B 1

Chapter 4: Human population

pg. 53 – 71

Mini lab: Personal life expectancy calculator

World population data histograms DS

Population size and impacts of population growth

Strategies for sustainability, case studies, national policies, hunger, disease, economic effects, resource use, habitat destruction

III. B 2,3

Exponential growth pg. 40-41

Food for thought activity DS EC

Chapter 5 Vocabulary: Doubling time equation (rule of 70), morbidity, mortality, demographic transition, intrinsic rate of increase (r), carrying capacity (K), immigration, emigration, age structure, logistic growth, r-selected species, k-selected species, growth rate of population equation (g), birth rate equation, death rate equation -last three on pg. 55, population change equation (use Miller pg. 109)

Unit 6: Energy

December 4-14, January 7-17

Major Topic

Sub topics

Topic Outline Section


Associated Lab Activity/Experience

Energy concepts, consumption, and calculations

Energy forms, power, units, conversions, laws of thermodynamics, history of energy consumption, industrial revolution, exponential growth, energy crisis, present global energy use, future needs

V. A, B

Chapter 16

Energy Basics

pg. 319-336

Cost and energy use comparisons of traditional vs. energy star appliances EC

Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuel resources and use, formation of coal, oil, and natural gas, extraction/purification methods, world reserves and global demand, synfuels, environmental advantages/disadvantages of sources

V. C

Chapter 17

Fossil Fuels

pg, 337 – 357

Renewable and hydroelectric power

hydroelectric power, dams, flood control, salmon, silting, other effects Renewable energy – solar energy, solar electricity, H fuel cells, biomass, wind energy, small scale hydroelectric, ocean waves and tidal energy, geothermal, environmental advantages and disadvantages

V. E, G

Chapter 18

Alternative Energy

pg. 358-379

Inquiry lab: Solar flat plate collector lab FW, DS


Nuclear fission process, nuclear fuel, electricity production, nuclear reactor types, environmental advantages/disadvantages, safety issues, radiation and human health, radioactive wastes, nuclear fusion

V. D

Chapter 19


pg. 380-403

Mini lab: Radioactive decay

Unit 6 Vocabulary: passive solar heating, active solar heating, liquefied natural gas (LNG), shale oil, oil sand or tar sand, OPEC, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics, fission, fusion, radioisotope, low-level radioactive waste, high-level radioactive waste

Unit 7: Pollution I

January 24-Feburary 11

Major Topic

Sub topics

Topic Outline Section


Associated Lab Activity/Experience

Intro to Pollution

Selected articles on fracking

Socratic Seminar

Water Pollution

Water pollution types, sources, causes and effects, cultural eutrophication, ground water pollution, maintaining water quality, water purification, sewage treatment/septic systems, Clean Water Act and relevant laws

VI. A 3

Chapter 21

Water Pollution

pg. 433-465

Inquiry lab: Bioassay experiment for acid rain DS, SM, EC

Air Pollution

Air pollution primary and secondary sources, major air pollutants, measurement units, smog, acid deposition – causes and effects, heat islands and temperature inversions, remediation and reduction strategies, Clean Air Act and other relevant laws

VI. A 1

Chapter 23

Air Pollution

pg. 502-532

Mini lab: Ozone testing DS, SM

Mini lab: Contributors to air pollution

Indoor Air Quality and Noise Pollution

Indoor air pollution, noise pollution, sources, effects, control measures

VI. A 1, 2

Chapter 24

Indoor Air Pollution

pg. 533-548

Mini lab: Indoor air quality of the home DS, SM

Case study: Radon

Chapter 7 Vocabulary: National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), Clean Air Act, Clean Air Amendments of 1990, coal gasification, scrubbing, point-source pollution, non-point source pollution, primary pollutants (air), secondary pollutants (air), Legionnaires' disease, Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), radon, primary, secondary, and advanced treatment (of wastewater), Integrated Waste Management (IWM), incineration, sanitary landfill, leachate, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), Clean Water Act, Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, Water Quality Act, environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), sick building syndrome (SBS), acid mine drainage, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), fecal coliform bacteria, eutrophication, bioremediation

Unit 8: Pollution II

February 13- March 4

Major Topic

Sub topics

Corresponding Course Topic Outline Section


Associated Lab Activity/Experience

Intro to Pollution Toxicology


Chapter from Silent Spring by Rachel Carson

Socratic Seminar

Toxicology and hazards to human health

hazards to human health, environmental risk analysis, acute and chronic effects, dose-response relationships, air pollutants, smoking risk

VI. B1

Chapter 15

Environmental Health and Toxicology

pg. 294-317

Mini lab: Testing toys for lead SM, EC

LD50 lab: SM, DS, EC

Hazardous waste cleanup and bioremediation

hazardous chemicals in the environment, types of hazardous waste, treatment/disposal of hazardous waste, cleanup of contaminated sites biomagnifications, relevant laws

VI. B2

Chapter 29

Waste Management (Hazardous waste)

pg. 634-646

Mini lab: Toxics in your town internet activity with EPA data DS, EC

Bioremediation: Oil eating bacteria


Risk assessment/

Economic costs/benefit analysis

cost-benefit analysis, externalities, marginal costs, sustainability


Risk Benefit analysis

pg. 590-594

Risk Calculations


Unit 8 Vocabulary: Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), ecological gradient, acute effect, chronic effect, electromagnetic fields (EMFs), dose response, LD-50, ED-50, TD-50, biomagnifications (bioaccumulation), synthetic organic compounds, Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, Liability Act (CERCLA), contamination, toxic, carcinogen, body burden, thermal pollution, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), Hormonally Active Agents (HAAs),

Unit 9: Sustainability and Land Use For Food

March 6 - April 1

Major Topic

Sub topics

Topic Outline Section


Associated Lab Activity/Experience

Intro to Land use For Food

Chapter from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver

Socratic Seminar

Global Economics

Globalization, world bank, relevant laws and treaties



pg. 587-588


Pg. 612-625

Conservation Resource Simulation



soil and soil dynamics, soil formation and composition, physical and chemical properties, main soil types, erosion and other soil problems, soil conservation

I. D



pg. 287, 302-307

Soil Testing Labs



Feeding a growing population, human nutritional requirements, types of agriculture, green revolution, genetic engineering and crop production, deforestation, irrigation, sustainable agriculture, controlling pests, types of pesticides, costs and benefits of pesticide use, integrated pest management, relevant laws


Chapter 11


pg. 217-237

pg. 224-230

Inquiry Lab: Compost DS, EC

Optional Saturday field trip Austin Farmer’s Market


overgrazing, deforestation, desertification, rangeland management, federal rangelands


rangelands and desertification pg. 230-236


fishing techniques, overfishing, aquaculture, relevant laws and treaties, tragedy of the commons


Chapter 14


pg. 274-282

Tragedy of the commons fishing simulation DS, EC

Unit 9 Vocabulary: contour planting/plowing, strip cropping, cover crop, alley cropping or agroforestry, conservation-tillage farming or no-till agriculture, green manure, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), terminator gene, overgrazing, desertification, old-growth forest, second-growth forest, rotation time, dominants, codominants, intermediate, suppressed (last four terms - trees), clear-cutting, shelterwood-cutting, seed tree cutting, selective cutting, thinning

Unit 10: Sustainability and Other Land Use (aka Land Use II)

April 3 – April 19

Major Topic

Sub topics

Course Topic Outline Section



Associated Lab Activity/Experience


mineral formation, extraction, global reserves, relevant laws and treaties


Chapter 26


pg. 568-581

Mining Cookie Lab


Solid Waste

Solid wastes; disposal, types, reduction

VI. A4

Chapter 29

Waste Management

pg. 624-634

Inquiry Lab: Compost Analysis

Urban land development and transportation

urban land development, planned development, suburban sprawl, urbanization, transportation infrastructure, federal highway system, canals and channels, road less areas, ecosystem impacts

IV. D 1,2

Chapter 28

Urban Environments

pg. 601-623

Inquiry Lab: Google Earth Activity and Land Use


Public and Federal Lands

public and federal lands, management, wilderness areas, national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, wetlands, land conservation, preservation, remediation, mitigation, restoration, sustainable land-use strategies

IV. D 3,4,5


pg. 254-261


pg. 262-274

Unit 10 Vocabulary: fall line, made lands, wilderness, maximum sustainable yield, minimum viable population, optimal sustainable population, reserves, natural capital, cost-benefit analysis, genuine progress indicator (GPI), regulation, command and control regulation, incentive-based regulation, -

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