Environmental Systems A

Course Description

Environmental Systems A is the first course of a two-semester series. The course explores the nature of science and the natural world. Students examine environmental issues and learn to make informed decisions by evaluating scientific evidence. Specific topics include the nature of science and science safety, the history of environmental science, interactions between Earth’s systems, ecological interactions, matter and energy flow in ecosystems, biodiversity, characteristics and growth of populations, adaptations, environmental disturbances and succession, biogeochemical cycles, and characteristics of terrestrial and aquatic biomes. You will find the list of lab kit materials here.

Course Objectives

This course will cover the following topics from the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills:

  • Environmental Systems – In Environmental Systems, students conduct laboratory and field investigations, use scientific methods during investigations, and make informed decisions using critical thinking and scientific problem solving. Students study a variety of topics that include: biotic and abiotic factors in habitats, ecosystems and biomes, interrelationships among resources and an environmental system, sources and flow of energy through an environmental system, relationship between carrying capacity and changes in populations and ecosystems, and changes in environments.
  • Nature of science – Science, as defined by the National Academy of Sciences, is the “use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process.” This vast body of changing and increasing knowledge is described by physical, mathematical, and conceptual models. Students should know that some questions are outside the realm of science because they deal with phenomena that are not scientifically testable.
  • Scientific inquiry – Scientific inquiry is the planned and deliberate investigation of the natural world. Scientific methods of investigation can be experimental, descriptive, or comparative. The method chosen should be appropriate to the question being asked.
  • Science and social ethics – Scientific decision making is a way of answering questions about the natural world. Students should be able to distinguish between scientific decision-making methods and ethical and social decisions that involve the application of scientific information.
  • Scientific systems – A system is a collection of cycles, structures, and processes that interact. All systems have basic properties that can be described in terms of space, time, energy, and matter. Change and constancy occur in systems as patterns and can be observed, measured, and modeled. These patterns help to make predictions that can be scientifically tested. Students should analyze a system in terms of its components and how these components relate to each other, to the whole, and to the external environment.

Required Course Materials

  • Science Journal – In the form of a small composition notebook, a spiral notebook, or loose-leaf paper kept in a binder.
  • Pencil or Pen – In order to do well in the course, you must take notes, sketch diagrams and graphs, and solve problems when instructed to do so.
  • Calculator – There are several units that involve calculations. A calculator is not required, but it would be helpful.
  • Internet Access
  • Microsoft Word and PowerPoint
  • Adobe Reader

Note: This course does not require a textbook.

Course Organization

Each semester contains 9 units and one final exam that must be taken in person.

Each Unit contains:

  • 4 to 6 lessons. Each lesson includes some or all of the following components: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.
  • Self-assessments to help you check your own understanding of the material covered in each lesson. You must complete these assessments in order to advance in the course.
  • 2 graded assignments

Final Examination

The final examination is comprehensive; it covers the material from all 9 units. To pass the course, you must receive a grade of 70 percent or better. You can apply to take the Final Exam after 100 percent of your graded assignments have been submitted, and at least 70 percent have been graded and returned to you.

Format: 50 multiple-choice questions, worth 2 points each
Time Allowed: 3 hours
Materials Allowed: #2 pencils

Semester Topics

Topic 1: Safety and Measurements
Topic 2: The Nature of Science
Topic 3: The History of Environmental Science
Topic 4: The Geosphere
Topic 5: The Hydrosphere
Topic 6: The Atmosphere
Topic 7: Ecology
Topic 8: Ecosystem Dynamics
Topic 9: Populations Dynamics