This curriculum unit is intended for use in the Advanced Placement Environmental Science (APES) course that I have taught at Wilbur Cross High School for the past six years. As stated in the College Board/Advanced Placement Program Course Description (Acorn Book),
"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 and/or preventing them."
This is a full year course that leads to the taking of a national Advanced Placement examination in May. The College Board/Advanced Placement Program provides an outline of the AP Environmental Science course. The AP Program and the school districts around the country that use this curriculum have high expectations for successful mastery of subject matter by students taking the APES course. It is thus highly desirable that any elaboration of the curriculum be mindful of the preparation of students for the national test. I have developed this curriculum unit to present topics in environmental science with which students need be familiar for the multiple choice and the free response sections of the APES exam. It is my view that an historical approach to these topics that makes use of photographic images is an effective way to teach the subject matter.
Contemporary physical sciences and life sciences are best understood through awareness of their historical development. Science employs specific methods of observation and description, experimentation, and theorizing in order to reveal to us the workings of the natural world. Science at its best is a self-correcting process of discovery. An understanding of modern science requires mastery of some basic principles and concepts in physics, chemistry, and geology (the physical sciences), and the various divisions of the life sciences (among them systematic biology, ecology, population biology, and evolutionary biology). The pace of discovery in the physical and life sciences today is more than a little daunting, yet our ability to address the many societal issues having an underlying scientific basis requires that we be well educated about principles, concepts, and applications of scientific knowledge.