• MPHS  Mount Pleasant High School

    Syllabus for Advanced Placement Environmental Science (A.P.E.S)

    Teacher: Tony Verde

    Email: Tony.verde@cabarrus.k12.nc.us

    Length of Course:  One semester – Spring 2017 (block scheduling)

    Meeting Time: The course is scheduled for 18 weeks with 90-minute class periods 5 days a week

    Grade level: 11 – 12

    Prerequisites: Students who wish do well and enroll in the AP Environmental Science course should have completed an honors course in Biology and Chemistry or Physics with an A or B grade. Completion or current enrolled in geometry is advised.  Students with an A in the standard courses will be considered.

    Course Description

    The A.P. Environmental Science course is designed to be the equivalent of a one-semester, introductory college course in environmental science.  AP Environmental Science is a rigorous, inter-disciplinary course with a focus on the application of scientific concepts and principals to the understanding and methodologies regarding solution of environmental issues from a sociological or political perspective rather than a scientific one.  The course includes lecture, laboratory and field components through which students will learn about environmental issues while developing and applying critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills.

    For a full description of the AP environmental Science please visit:


    Course Goals:

    The student will:

    • Identify and assess human impact, both directly and indirectly, on local and global ecosystems
    • Be able to understand and apply ecological concepts (i.e. Carrying capacity, sustainability, thermodynamics, biogeochemical cycles, biodiversity)
    • Be able to invoke the scientific method and design experiments to test proposed solutions to problems
    • Be able to address the relationship between nature and humans and our role in the biosphere
    • Become aware of global environmental issues through the study of current events
    • Make use of technology for scientific research.
    • Be able to express their ideas in written form in a coherent, logical manner

    Textbook and Supplemental Materials:

    The text for the course is the eighteenth edition of Living in the Environment: Principles, Connections, and Solutions, by G. Tyler Miller. Ext.  The class will also use supplemental resources such as additional textbooks, lab manuals, periodicals, case studies and internet resources.

    Material needed by students

    • 2 – 3 ring binders
    • 1 binder to be sectioned off into class notes, chapter questions, definitions, quizzes and lab notes
    • 1 binder to be used as a current event notebook in which mounted articles will be displayed
    • Dividers
    • College rule filler notebook paper
    • Pencils/pens (blue or black ink only)
    • There is a $25.00 fee for lab supplies.
    • Access to or ownership of the following book(s):

    o    The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

     2017 A.P. Test – Monday, May 01 morning session

    Every student in this A.P. course is expected to prepare for and take the A.P. Environmental Science Exam on Monday, May 01, 2017.  By achieving a high score on Advanced Placement (AP) exam a pre-enrollment credit can be granted towards a college course.  The exam is three hours in length and consists of two parts: a multiple-choice section comprised of 100 questions and forming 60% of the exam grade, and a free-response section comprised of four questions and forming 40% of the exam grade. The multiple-choice section is designed to cover the breadth of your knowledge and understanding of environmental science and includes thought-provoking problems and questions based on fundamental ideas from environmental science as well as questions on the recall basic facts and major concepts. The number of multiple-choice questions taken from each major topic area is reflected in the percentage of the course as designated in the outline of topics. The free-response section emphasizes the application principles in greater depth; you will need to organize answers broad questions, demonstrating reasoning and analytical skills, as well as the ability to synthesize material from several sources into cogent and coherent essays. There are three types of free-response questions; data analysis, document-based, and synthesis and evaluation questions. A lot of information on this and other AP programs may be found at:  http://collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/about.html

     Assignments/Homework (May include but not be limited to)

    Assignments in this class will include a variety of projects and labs. Labs and lab reports, poster projects, Power point, and/or video projects are assigned throughout the year. All assignments should serve as a best work sample you have for this class. A list of expected projects and labs are listed at the end of this syllabus. However, the project list subject to change depending upon current events.

     Laboratory and Field Investigations 

    Both lab and field work may be (a) open-ended, inquiry based, (b) long-term, running for 8 to 10 weeks, or (c) field studies experiments designed to complement the “indoor” classroom/lecture/discussion portion of the course.  These will provide opportunities to learn about our environment through firsthand observations, test concepts and principles which have been introduced in class, explore specific issues and problems in greater depth, and gain an awareness of the importance of variables which exist in the real world. Investigations will be diverse. The labs will invite the students to develop and conduct well-designed experiments and to think critically while observing environmental systems. Students will compose a formal lab report for each lab. Most labs will be completed as a team where each person will be responsible for the formal lab report.  The team grade issued will be divided based upon the individual performance and work completed by the group.  

    Student Assessment:

    Tests: Students will be evaluated through performance on topic/chapter exams, quizzes (announced and unannounced).  Tests will generally be given after every other chapter, about every two - four weeks, and will be worth 100 points.  At the beginning of the year the test will be multiple choice only. Essays will be given as homework assignments.  Later in the semester, testing will be similar to the AP Exam.  Possible essay topics will be given to you before the test to allow you to outline your answers.  Final exams will be given at the end of each semester and will count as two tests. 

    Quizzes: Weekly math and/or vocabulary quiz week on the current topic of study.

    Writing assignments (such as essays, responses and critiques of assigned essays and articles) and other individual and group projects. Notebooks will also be a part of the grade. 


    Tests/Quizzes = 65%

    Labs/Projects = 25%

    Classwork/Homework = 10% 

    Letter grades will be on a traditional scale: 

    90-100=A, 80-89.9 1=B, 70-79.9=C, 60-69.9=D, below 59.9=F.

    A.P.E.S. Course Outline

     1st Semester Units of Study

     Unit of Study

     Selected topics

     Introduction and History of Environmental Science

    What is environmental science? What is the scope of the science?  

     Scientific Methods and Principles

     Critical thinking, modeling, data collection and presentation

     Matter and Energy

    Systems, forms and quality of energy, physical and chemical changes, law of energy conservation


    Food chains and webs, energy flow, net and primary productivity, matter cycling (biogeochemical cycles)

    Evolution and Biodiversity


    Evolution and adaptation, niches, speciation, extinctions, biodiversity causes

    Climate, biomes, and aquatic ecosystems

    Weather and climate, global air and ocean circulation patterns, El Nino, biogeography, specific biome ecosystem types and characteristics

    Community processes and population dynamics

    Species interactions, types of species, population characteristics, limits to population growth, factors affecting change in ecosystems

    Biodiversity and conservation

    Threatened and endangered plants and animals, land use and management, aquatic biodiversity, sustainability of biodiversity, prevention of species loss  

    Environmental geology

    Plate tectonics, rock cycle, earthquakes, volcanoes, soil structure, formation, and degradation, desertification

    2nd Semester Units of Study

     Unit of Study

    Selected topics

    Risk and Toxicology  

    Risk, probability, and hazards; bioaccumulation and biomagnification, toxicology testing, transmissible diseases, and epidemiology

    Human Population 

    Demography and population structure and distribution, problems and solutions

    Food Resources and Pesticides  

    Foods production techniques and environmental consequences of various food production types and techniques, sustainability of resources

    Energy: renewable and non-renewable 

    Energy and mineral resources, alternative sources of energy, environmental effects of energy production, what can be done, sustainability of energy resource use

    Atmosphere and Air Pollution

    Outdoor and indoor air pollution, monitoring, health and environmental effects, prevention and clean-up

    Global warming and ozone depletion 

    Global climate change causes and effects, ozone depletion causes and effects, monitoring, management and solutions

    Water Resources and Pollution

    Supply and use of water, improving water storage including dams, water transfer projects, groundwater, types and sources of water pollution, monitoring, preventing and cleaning up water pollution

    Solid and hazardous waste

    Waste disposal and management, environmental and health problems related to waste

    Environmental politics, economics, and ethics

    Environmental policy and public planning

    AP exam review and AP test

    Comprehensive review and then the AP test


    Laboratory and Field Investigations

    Laboratory experiments and field investigations are designed to complement the

    “indoor” classroom/lecture/discussion portion of the course by providing opportunities to learn about our environment through firsthand observations, to test concepts and principles which have been introduced in class, to explore specific issues and problems in greater depth, and to gain an awareness of the importance of variables which exist in the real world. Investigations will be diverse. 

    Students will develop and conduct well-designed experiments and think critically while observing environmental systems.  Labs will be both quantitative and quantitative.  Students will routinely use mathematical techniques to analyze and interpret results from data. At least one class period per week is devoted to lab activities. 

    1st Semester Labs and Projects

    Lab or project


    Ranking Environmental Problems

    Students rank environmental problems and present reasons for rankings

    Tragedy of the Commons Simulation

    Students simulate the Tragedy of the Commons experience via a “fishing” lab. Students evaluate the concept of sustainability of resources.

    Salinization of Soil Lab

    Students design and carry out an experiment to

    investigate the effects of salt on seed germination. Students analyze and interpret the data and offer suggestions for soil improvement. Results will be presented in a lab report with data tables and graphs

    Food Webbing

    Students complete a food web of local organisms, identifying interactions

    EcoColumn Lab

    Long term monitoring of student-built bottle biology EcoColumn, investigating ecosystem components and their interrelationships, collecting water quality data of aquatic chamber.

    Primary Productivity Lab

    Grow grass seed and calculate primary and net productivity

    Seed Crowding Lab

    Grow seeds in varying densities, analyze and interpret results using graphs of data

    Climatogram Project

    Use Excel to construct graphs of temperature and rainfall data for a city in at least six biomes. Use the graphs to identify the biome.

    Carrying Capacity Lab

    Collect tree diameter data (simulation: assume all trees measured to be oaks), then calculate acorn production and carrying capacity of trees for squirrels. 

    Capture/Recapture Lab (simulation) 

    Use a capture/recapture tagging technique to calculate the estimated population (seeds in a bag) using the Lincoln Index formula

    Shannon-Weiner Diversity Index Lab (simulation) 

    Count “species” of cars in faculty and student parking lots and calculate the Shannon-Weiner diversity of each lot

    Wildlife Observation Lab – Bird Feeder Project

    Students do long-term wildlife observation of bird species and their interactions at a student built platform bird feeder. Students document results in a lab notebook and with photos. 

    Soil Analysis Lab

    Analyze soil texture, temperature, water percent, and pH data from soil samples. 

    Earthquake Epicenter lab

    Determine earthquake magnitude and epicenter locations from USGS seismogram data.




    2nd Semester Labs and Projects

    Lab or project


    Dendroclimatology Lab

    Students count tree rings on a disk of tree trunk and determine relative width of rings to interpret climate changes during tree growth 

    Particulate Analysis Lab 

    Students study air pollution by placing particulate collectors at various places at home and on campus and bring to class to analyze under a microscope, count particulates per square inch and draw conclusions from data

    Acid rain and seed germination lab

    Make serial dilutions of acid and analyze and interpret the relationship of problem of acid concentration to seed germination.

    Risk Perception Survey

    Gather data via survey of personal risk perception and graph results compared to actual data. Interpret data to draw conclusions. 

    Cemetery Lab

    Students collect data from local cemetery and calculate age cohort survivorship percentages, graph results by sex and by time period of death or birth, and interpret results

    Watershed Analysis

    Field trip to local mountain watershed to collect water quality data above and below a small mountain town using Vernier probe ware, analyze results and compare against results from previous years (multi-year class study).  Students research ways that the town can improve water quality.  

    Home Water Use Audit

    Students collect on their home after use and analyze and interpret home water use. Recommend ways to save water. 

    Recycling Analysis Lab

    Students collect aluminum cans, calculate can use for average family size and determine energy needs to produce cans


    Classroom needs: Students often request that these items be available for their use in class. Donations of these items would be appreciated. Thank you so much for your generosity. 

    • Kleenex 
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Glue sticks
    • White board markers
    • Colored pencils
    • Copy Paper!