It is now my third year teaching AP environmental science (APES) and I am enjoying teaching it more and more each year. Even though it is labeled as a "science" course it is very interdisciplinary and the issues and challenges discussed in the course can be approached from many different perspectives - scientific, social, economic, political, law, engineering, etc.
As I have taught the course however, I felt as though each unit was being treated as its own separate entity and the interconnectedness between the concepts that we were learning was being lost. For examples, the unit on agriculture was seen as just concepts related to agriculture and not how agriculture is related to previous concepts like water use, water pollution, energy, ecological footprint, biodiversity, populations, etc.
The two consistent issues I was seeing were:
1. Students struggle to connect new concepts to previous ones, leaving them to miss the interconnectedness within APES that provides the "whole picture".
2. Students have a hard time retaining the large quantity of information throughout the year that comes in the form of vocabulary, concepts, and real world examples.
At a recent EGLLT meeting, Kim Miklusak shared part of her 6-step process to designing curriculum and it has helped me zero in on how to approach the major task/question that I was trying to answer: How can I establish routines that have students to approach the content more holistically?
|A curricular planning tool to Kim shared to help connect a question/task to a desired goal and learning outcome(s).|
|Students make connections between seemingly unconnected concepts: evolution, air pollution, and genetic diversity.|
|Students wrestle with the implications of hunting ranches.|
Next steps include seeking out additional reading and writing strategies that are engaging and lend themselves well to revisiting old topics and concepts. The hope is that students create more of a web of information throughout the year rather than independent subsections of environmental science.