AP Environmental Science
The Knowledge in Action project began in 2008 as a collaboration between education researchers at the University of Washington and AP US Government and Politics teachers in public schools in and around the Seattle area. From there, the Knowledge in Action project expanded to AP Environmental Science. From the start, the course was co-designed with teachers and researchers who together created each of the five projects, tested them in classrooms, collected and analyzed data and feedback from students and teachers, and revised the projects using a continuous improvement framework. The course is an active and engaging project-based approach to the standard AP Environmental Science course.
The subject matter is the same as in a traditionally taught course, but it is organized in a different way. Students use a core set of ideas, concepts, and skills to analyze facts and as a result they gain an analytical perspective on environmental science. By applying concepts, students deepen their understanding and further develop their knowledge in a way that is widely referred to as deeper learning. The driving question for the course is, How can we rethink our use of the world’s resources?
The subject matter is the same as in a traditionally taught course, but it is organized in a different way. Students use a core set of ideas, concepts, and skills to analyze facts and as a result they gain an analytical perspective on environmental science. By applying concepts, students deepen their understanding and further develop their knowledge in a way that is widely referred to as deeper learning.
Learn More About PBL
For more information on project-based learning, please visit this section of our site.
This course contains five projects, plus a course introduction and course closure, that are organized around the following question: “How can we rethink our use of the world’s resources?” Each project involves investigations of sustainability that help contextualize the content required by the new College Board course framework.
In the course introduction, students explore a case study to explore the question: “What does sustainability mean?” They practice evaluating hypotheses, creating arguments, and using evidence to explain the concept of the tragedy of the commons, and they apply a model of sustainability to modern-day environmental issues.
Students evaluate their individual resource usage and analyze their personal impact on the environment. Students also conduct a life cycle analysis on commonly used products at home or at school to begin to understand how to use systems thinking as an analytical tool for making sound environmental decisions. Students then develop and present a persuasive, well-researched proposal to their family with ways to reduce their resource consumption to live more sustainably.
My Community Ecology
In My Community Ecology, students complete a biomap of a local site slated for development. Using three lenses of sustainability, the students infer how human development on that site could impact the ecosystem. At the end of the unit, students present their research to an outside audience in which they describe the impacts of the proposed development and suggest evidence-based sustainable improvements.
In this project, students work in groups to create a plan for a sustainable farm. As they learn new information, they must make revisions to their farm plans based on new constraints such as pests, weather, irrigation issues, and requests from a client. They are asked to consider how economic issues such as farm subsidies and food safety and security laws may impact their farm. By the end of the project, students have a working farm that meets a complex set of real-world constraints.
Ocean In Action
In this project, students are all assigned citizen roles on a fictitious island community. Each citizen role has a set of values that they will maintain while the community argues how to recover from its economic decline. Two different industries have proposed to operate from the island, and students debate through a town council meeting, whether to bring one, both, or neither of these industries to the island, and if so, under what conditions.
Global Climate Summit
In Global Climate Summit, students are all assigned to be the leaders of specific countries in the world, and they have all been invited to an international environmental summit. Students will research factors in their countries and, using this information, will decide how climate change could affect their country and how their policies could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Students then run a global climate summit in class to defend their perspectives and ultimately decide who has the responsibility to reduce climate emissions and how it can be accomplished.
Students will consider the social, economic and environmental factors on sustainability and will discuss the potential impact of “The Power of Many”. This is a chance for students to think about and co-create a local, authentic, relevant project at their school or in the community to apply what they have learned in the course and to leave with a sense of practical accomplishment.
* This APES course will include an alignment and looping guide to the new 2019 College Board APES Framework. The guide will provide an overview of alignment to the framework and suggestions for course modifications in areas with weak alignment. Revisions are currently underway to complete the full alignment of this APES course [The new framework was released while revisions were already underway].
According to College Board: “If you’re teaching a previously authorized AP Environmental Science course, you won’t need to submit anything. Your school administrator can simply renew your course for 2020-21.”
University of Washington researchers investigated whether this project-based approach to the course could result in the same or better performance on the AP Exam as compared with student performance on the exam after taking the traditionally taught AP course. Researchers also measured students’ engagement and performance on measures of deeper learning. Preliminary findings showed that students report higher degrees of engagement and interest in the Knowledge in Action classrooms and they perform equally as well on the AP Exam.
Ongoing research taking place across nearly 70 schools and five urban districts will evaluate if these results can be replicated within multiple, varied school contexts. Preliminary results from the research reveal that after implementing KIA for an entire school year:
Learn More about the Research
Visit the Knowledge in Action page on Lucas Education Research’s site to find out more about the research results.
of teachers would encourage their school to adopt KIA curriculum for all AP classes
of teachers would encourage non-AP teachers to use elements of the KIA project-based approach and also plan to use KIA the next time they teach AP U.S. Government and Politics
of teachers plan to use elements of KIA in their non-AP U.S. Government and Politics courses
The revised AP Environmental Science Course is now available.
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