Pacing Calendar and Curriculum Plan for Withgott

I use Withgott and LaPosada’s Environment, the Science Behind the Stories, 5th edition for AP® Environmental Science.  I’ve used Withgott for 12 years and love it. My students find it accessible and readable.

I analyzed all released multiple choice exams and FRQs to find out what percentage of each chapter is asked on the AP Exam. This guides my pacing for the year. The following is my Withgott pacing plan.

Pacing Plan

This is my Withgott pacing plan for the amount of time I spend on each chapter.  I teach a traditional calendar from the middle of August through the first week of June–every day for 55 min. The rest of the document with labs, activities, and optional material can be found on this Google Sheet.  

Its important to backwards plan. Mark every special day, holiday on your school calendar, then the date of the AP Exam and work backwards.

Stick to it! This is item #1 on the 15 most important things a new AP teacher should know.

Chapter in Environment: The Science Behind the Stories by Withgott and Laposata Time % of MC questions on released exams % of FRQ questions 2003-2016
1. Science and Sustainability: An Introduction to Environmental Science 1 week
2. Earth’s Physical Systems: Matter, Energy and Geology 1 week Chapters 1 and 2 is 5% of AP Exam (mostly  Ch 2) 2% (all Ch 2)
3. Evolution, Biodiversity, and Population Ecology 1 week
4. Species Interactions and Community Ecology 1 week
5. Environmental Systems and Ecosystem Ecology 1/2 – 2 weeks Chapters 3,4,5 is 12% of AP Exam (mostly  Ch 4 and 5) 10%
6. Ethics, Economics and Sustainable Development 1/2- 1 week
7. Environmental Policy: Making Decisions and Solving Problems 1/2 week Chapters 6 and 7 are 6 % of AP Exam (mostly Ch 7-laws) 5%
8. Human Population 1 1/2 weeks Chapter 8 is 6% of AP Exam 2%
9. Soil and Agriculture 1 1/2 weeks
10. Agriculture, Biotechnology, and the Future of Food 1 1/2 weeks Chapters 9 and 10 are 6% of AP Exam 11%
11. Biodiversity and Conservation Biology 1 week
12. Forests, Forest Management, and Protected Areas 1 week
13. The Urban Environment: Creating Sustainable Cities 1/2 week Chapters 11, 12 and 13 are 7% of AP Exam 14%
14. Environmental Health and Toxicology 2 weeks Chapter 14 is 6% of AP Exam 7%
15. Freshwater Systems and Resources 2 weeks
16. Marine and Coastal Systems and Resources 1 week Chapters 15 and 16 are 11% of AP Exam (mostly Ch 15) 14% (mostly Chp 15)
17. Atmospheric Science, Air Quality and Pollution Control 2 weeks
18. Global Climate Change 1 – 1 1/2 weeks Chapters 17 and 18 are 18% of AP exam (mostly Ch 17) 12%
Pass out 6 week study plan for AP Exam
19. Fossil Fuels, Their Impacts, and energy Conservation 1 week
20. Conventional Energy Alternatives 1 week
21. New Renewable Energy Alternatives 1 week Chapters 19, 20 and 21 are 10% of AP Exam 14%
22. Managing our Waste 1/2 week
23. Minerals and Mining 1/2 week Chapters 22 and 23 are 5% of AP Exam 9%
Review for AP Exam 2 weeks
After the AP Exam

Image result for withgott

(AP®  is a trademark owned by the College Board, which is not affiliated with, and does not endorse, this site.)

Flipped Classroom-Reflections and Changes for Year 2

I recently finished the second year of a flipped classroom for AP® Environmental Science and my students did very well on the AP® Exam. I have a lot of first-time AP® kids that aren’t the typical honors student. Flipping helps not only these kids, but all students learn content at their own pace.

For year two, I changed a few things.  (You can read about how I flipped the first year here and you can scroll to the bottom for a sample week’s assignments). After the first year, student feedback indicated that an overwhelming number of kids liked and learned well from this method, but 10% hated it. They explained that they thought there was more homework (there wasn’t), learned better from an in-class lecture, were used to copying homework, and/or were too lazy to do notes at home.

My goal this year was help all kids understand and embrace a flipped classroom since it can be very helpful to students and the vast majority of my students love it. And, more importantly, kids learn more and achieve higher scores on exams.

Caveat: A flipped classroom is not for every teacher, class or school. It can only work if students have access to resources at home. I work with the 1-2 students each year without computer or internet access to provide them with an individualized, easy solution (borrowed device, videos on a flash drive, etc). I also don’t think its good for NGSS where most learning is inquiry with labs or via literature, not lecture. 


  • Communication. This year, I constantly referred to Bloom’s taxonomy, Depth of Knowledge and AP® Science practices (which are posted in the front of the room) when explaining an assignment. The AP® Exam is 2/3 higher level thinking and I tell them that. I reiterated periodically to students that they don’t have more homework with a flipped classroom, just different homework. For example, some days, I told kids at the beginning of class that they have today’s class time to do this lab write-up since notes are at home.  Notes are the “easy stuff”, skills and AP® Science Practices are the “hard stuff” and will be done in class. More about communicating to parents and students can be found here. Communicating worked, sort of. I still had 9% of my students who didn’t embrace flipped (shown on the graph below with a 1 or 2 ranking), but they didn’t say that they felt that I gave more homework.The great news is that more kids chose a 5 below which indicated that they understood why this method works for their learning.
    On the graph below:
    1: No I didn’t learn well this way.
    5: Yes, it was great to learn this way.
The vast majority of students reported that they learned better with a flipped classroom.

Here is a sampling of why they chose the number they did.

This is a sampling of student responses about flipping.

Overall, I am still very pleased with a flipped classroom. The kids learn well from it and enjoy class time more.

  • Lecture/Notes before reading assignments. On the suggestion of my students, I switched the order of homework after the first few months. I used to have students read at home and do in-class reading quizzes for homework and then do lecture notes (I do sticky notes) for homework using Edpuzzle for accountability. Then, I switched to doing lecture note videos first for homework, followed by reading assignments and in-class quizzes.  This was their feedback.
My students preferred sticky note lecture before reading assignments.

I think that kids understood material in the book better when I went through the chapter via sticky note lecture before they had to read it. I plan to continue with this method in my flipped classroom.

  • Gave less reading quizzes by combining sections. My textbook has about 4 sections per chapter. I used to give one section to read and a few little Edpuzzle videos (2-3 minutes) for homework followed by an in-class, open-book, timed, randomized, online reading quiz the next day. I started combining sections for the quizzes. I still gave only one section per night, but a quiz every other day (I am on a traditional schedule where I see the kids for 55 min each day).  This forced kids to read more carefully.
  • Check and give credit for notes 2 ways. My sticky note lectures are on Edpuzzle. Students must get most of the questions correct for credit. The questions are embedded from what I say, not what I write. This ensures that they actually LISTEN to my lecture instead of watching it, taking notes and listening to their own music. In addition, I do a note-check the day before the exam (two chapters at a time) to make sure they did the physical notes. These count for more credit.

Sample Week for a Flipped Classroom in APES

  • Weekend homework: Chapter 9 Sticky Notes on Edpuzzle
  • Monday class: Lab Set up
  • Monday homework: Read 9.1 and watch 3 mini Edpuzzles (ones that give visuals for 9.1)
  • Tuesday class: Math review and practice
  • Tuesday homework: Read 9.2 and watch 2 mini Edpuzzles
  • Wednesday class: 9.1/9.2 reading quiz (open-book, 10 questions, 7 minutes, randomized). Discuss results of quiz and misconceptions. Gather lab data.
  • Wednesday homework: Read 9.3 and watch 3 mini Edpuzzles
  • Thursday class: Finish lab data and questions, plan for group lab report on Flipgrid.
  • Thursday homework: Read 9.4 and watch 4 mini Edpuzzles
  • Friday class:  9.3/9.4 reading quiz. Film flipgrid with groups
  • Weekend homework: Chapter 10 sticky notes on Edpuzzle

Students like the flipped more classroom and more importantly, they learn from it. Here’s some feedback this year from my students:

By the way, I also ask them ways I can improve…but I didn’t post those here. 🙂



Everything Ecocolumns

My students’ favorite lab is building and taking care of Ecocolumns.  This lab gives them practice in long-term data collection and a myriad of other essential topics in APES. Here are the posts you can click on to learn how to build, buy supplies and assess ecocolumns.

Prepping Ecocolumns

Buying Supplies for Ecocolumns

Ecocolumns with a Small Budget and a Big Budget

Making Ecocolumns

The following posts are the order in which students should build ecocolumns. The fish doesn’t come for 2 weeks!

  1. Cutting and Filling Ecocolumns
  2. Planting Seeds, Setting up Data Charts, Taking Soil Data
  3. Adding Bugs, Worms and Leaf Litter
  4. Building the Aquatic Chamber
  5. Adding fish

(Scroll down for more!)

When things go wrong

Things go wrong in ecocolumns and its okay!

Data and Assessment

Group Data Analysis
Scientific Concepts Kids Should Learn in Ecocolumns


In AP® Environmental Science, we don’t have any mandatory labs, but there are a few that are seen often on the AP® test.  In addition, there are a lot of great labs that students will find enjoyable and that hit a lot of the topics required tin APES.

APES Supplies Part I: Essential Labs

APES Supplies Part II: Other Recommended Labs

Supplies for EcoColumns

Ideas for finding funding for supplies

Students preparing petri dishes for the salinization lab



AP® Released Exams, Score Predictions, & the Final Exam “Curve”

One way to prepare students for the AP® exam is to have them take released exams either as practice or as a final exam before the AP® Exam.

My students do both.  For practice tests, I have them fill in diagnostic worksheets based off of my textbook.  Then, for the final exam, they review the Zipgrade printout and reference this spreadsheet to see how close they are to the score they want.  They can also see my curve–the % I put in for their final exam.  The spreadsheet is based off of the most recent released exams which are curved harder than older exams.

My students practice with the multiple choice only.  My students do not need more FRQ practice  at this time–they need to memorize information and use it in complex, higher-order thinking questions.  But, your students may need more FRQ practice.  If your students take both the MC and FRQs use the Scoring Worksheets provided by the College Board with the released exams for score predictions.

Since I give my final a few days before the AP® Exam, students can use those days to cram and get a higher score.   I have a good number of kids who bring themselves from a 2 to a 3  each year in the final days. And, many students who are at a 4 cram more to get that 5.  Encourage students that they can do it too!

# Correct on MC % on Final Exam Also need: avg per FRQ AP® Score
99 100 6/10 5
98 100 6/10 5
97 100 6/10 5
96 100 6/10 5
95 99 6/10 5
94 99 6/10 5
93 99 6/10 5
92 98 6/10 5
91 98 6/10 5
90 97 6/10 5
89 97 6/10 5
88 96 6/10 5
87 96 6/10 5
86 95 6/10 5
85 95 6/10 5
84 94 6/10 5
83 94 6/10 5
82 93 6/10 5
81 93 5/10 4
80 92 5/10 4
# Correct on MC % on Final Exam Also need: avg per FRQ AP® Score
79 92 5/10 4
78 91 5/10 4
77 91 5/10 4
76 90 5/10 4
75 90 5/10 4
74 89 5/10 4
73 89 5/10 4
72 88 5/10 4
71 88 5/10 4
70 87 4/10 3
69 86 4/10 3
68 85 4/10 3
67 84 4/10 3
66 83 4/10 3
65 82 4/10 3
64 81 4/10 3
63 80 4/10 3
62 80 4/10 3
61 79 3/10 2
60 78 3/10 2
# Correct on MC % on Final Exam Also need: avg per FRQ AP® Score
59 77 3/10 2
58 76 3/10 2
57 75 3/10 2
56 74 3/10 2
55 74 3/10 2
54 73 3/10 2
53 72 3/10 2
52 71 2/10 1
51 70 2/10 1
50 69 2/10 1
49 68 2/10 1
48 67 2/10 1
47 67 2/10 1
46 66 2/10 1
45 65 2/10 1
44 64 2/10 1
43 63 2/10 1
42 62 2/10 1
41 61 2/10 1
40 60 2/10 1


APES Lab Supplies Part 2: Other Recommended Labs

The labs on this post tend to be popular, because they cover a lot of topics within the lab, build skills, and/or are engaging. You don’t need to do all of them! I do about half of these.

Read APES Lab Supplies Part 1 for Must-Do Labs

APES Lab Supplies for Popular Labs

  • Tragedy of the Commons:  This lab has many great versions.
    • Colored marshmallows, goldfish crackers, or candy are favorites. Some teachers use beads to be reusable. If you have large classes, marshmallows are the cheapest.
    • Straws
    • Tape
    • Paper plates or paper towels

  • Biodiversity:  There are many varieties of this lab that are used including:
    • Parking lot biodiversity lab
      • Needs no supplies
    • Biodiversity of plants using quadrats
    • Tree biodiversity in forests (if you live by a forest).
      • Need tree ID reference sheets

counting plants with quadrats

  • Island Biogeography
    • Many versions. Some use beans and funnels and meter sticks
    • Others use birdseed, paper clips, cotton balls, beads etc to throw at paper islands.
  • Ocean Acidification
    • Plastic cups: 4-5 per group
    • Shells (ask kids to donate or ask seafood restaurants for oyster, clams and mussel shells). One small shell or piece of a larger shell per group.
    • Vinegar or another acid
    • pH meters
    • Scales-pocket or regular
    • Plastic pipets

  • Cemetery Lab for human population studies
    • No supplies needed if you can walk to an old cemetery
    • If you simulate using paper tombstones in lab, you may want to decorate the lab with Halloween decorations. The dollar store is a good source.
  • Oil Spill Cleanup
    • Plastic containers or metal pans to hold water and simulate the ocean. One per group.
    • Cotton Balls
    • Straws
    • Plastic pipets
    • Cups or Beakers
    • Vegetable or mineral oil
    • Detergent
  • Air Pollution Lab.  There are a few good ones to choose from.
Using a stereoscope to count particulates

  • Productivity–there are many versions of this lab also.
  • Soil Profiles made out of food items
    • plastic parfait cups: one per student
    • Vanilla and chocolate pudding: quantity depends on number of students.
    • Oreo cookies
    • Sprinkles
    • Gummy worms: 2 per student
    • Spoons
  • Cookie Mining
    • Generic chocolate chip cookies (1 per pair of students)
    • Name-brand chocolate chip cookies
    • Extra cookies to eat when finished
    • Paper clips
    • Toothpicks
    • Scales-pocket or regular (optional)
  • Solar Cookers (usually done after the AP® exam due to time requirements)
    • Aluminum foil–a big roll from Costco or Amazon will make a lot of solar cookers
    • Packing tape or duct tape
    • Masking tape
    • Lots of boxes: I ask the food service on campus for empty boxes
    • Empty cans to test water temperature
    • Plastic wrap
    • Thermometers
    • IR Temperature guns (optional)

Other Basic Supplies

I use these items frequently for many labs

Sharpies (need 10 black for the year)
Spoons (need 1 box for labs)
De-chlorine drops for fish tanks
Filters for fish tank
Aquarium light bulbs
Fish food
Colored markers (Crayola or similar) for lab conclusion posters
Painter’s tape for marking beakers, lab apparatus
Hand Sanitizer-large container for classroom
Batteries for various sensors and probes
Chalk: IKEA makes the best chalk! Or Expo Neon markers for lab table drawings

Acid rain chalk drawing


APES Lab Supplies Part 1: Essential Labs

A question new AP® Environmental Science teachers ask is “What supplies do I need?” or “What kits should I buy?” This post will go over basic APES lab supplies.

Kits are a great way to start and can help many new AP® teachers. After a while many veteran APES teachers no longer buy kits as we have figured out how to source materials more cheaply and have altered labs to how we like them.

APES lab supplies can be cheap or expensive.  What you decide to do depends on your location (some outdoor labs are regional), the materials you have, the size of your classes and how much money you have.  Over time, apply for grants and other funding to build up your supply of plant lights, probesware etc.

  • You need basic lab supplies that your school should already have such as glass and plastic beakers, balances, graduated cylinders etc.

APES Lab Supplies for Must-do Labs

While there are no official required labs for APES, there are a few which have appeared on the AP® Exam or cover many concepts that have appeared on the exam. Here are some recommendations for APES lab supplies.

Measuring the sprout in mm
  • LD-50 Lab: You can do this lab many ways.
    • Use salinization lab results so you aren’t taking time for a new lab.
    • Purchase a kit.
    • Purchase individual supplies. You need macroinvertebrates such as brine shrimp or daphnia, some kind of toxin, and beakers/cups etc.  Some teachers use seeds instead of invertebrates.

  • Soil Quality Labs

  • Water Quality Lab
    • Depending on your budget, you can purchase an inexpensive kit, test strips or probes. Probes or sensors are more expensive initially, but end up saving money over multiple years. See this post for supply ideas for an in-class lab. If you have a pond or creek to walk to, you may want a portable kit.
    • If you have a creek or pond, you may want to purchase a couple of hip waders and macroinvertebrate collection devices or kits.

  • Experimental Design Lab:  Don’t do as a separate lab just to teach scientific method at the beginning of the year–you don’t have time in an AP® course. Instead, teach experimental design with another lab such as salinization,  ocean acidification, biodiversity with quadrats, or air particulates.

Read the next post for more recommended labs.

APES Lab Supplies Part 2: More Recommended Labs



Air Pollution Lab-Airborne Particulates

One of the best (and easy to implement) labs I do is an air pollution lab–airborne particulates lab. I worked with a colleague at a neighboring school (Laura Solarez) to develop this lab for AP® Environmental Science.

This is an experimental design lab which is really important for students to do at least once or twice in the year, because the AP® Exam WILL have experimental design questions on the multiple choice section and sometimes on an FRQ. The AP® exam will ask complicated higher-level thinking questions-many of which are experimental design. 


Materials needed on day 1 of the lab.

Materials are quick and easy for this lab

  1. Petri dishes-2 per student, if possible
  2. Vaseline
  3. Tape-blue painter’s tape is best as it can be removed easily to allow reuse of the dishes.
  4. Stereoscopes are best. Microscopes can also work using a low objective. Hand lens with a good light source work, but are more difficult for kids to use.
  5. Poster paper with markers (optional) for lab assessment

Day 1

Day one of the air pollution lab takes about 45-60 minutes. Student lab groups brainstorm and come up with a question to test, a hypothesis, and design. They must get two approvals from me before making their petri dishes.  My students have already done an experimental design lab so this process is fairly quick at this point. If this is the first experimental design lab of the year, expect this to take longer and for students to need more revision.

Student Sample

This lab is challenging with the constants. They can never really isolate all the variables and because of this, they will get flawed data. This is really important!!   Analyzing the weaknesses in their lab help them identify flawed experiments later on in life and on the AP® Exam. I aim to develop scientifically literature citizens.

I give students some ideas such as comparing indoor vs. outdoor particulates, front yard vs. back yard or the number of pets. Some students come up with very creative ideas outside of these suggestions.

If rain is in the forecast, make sure they don’t set out the dishes in the rain (or sprinklers). Also, they need to make sure they all set out the dishes on the same day for the same amount of time, because weather can influence.

After approvals, students make their dishes. I made this video last year. They pay attention to the video more than me demonstrating in person!  I show the video up to minute 3:18 on Day 1

Make sure you tell students to make a little sign at home, because I’ve had many dishes thrown away by parents over the years. They don’t know what it is and just throw away. Students make a sign that says “Science experiment–don’t throw away”.

Student making the dishes
Students label and bring dishes home to expose
A control dish that is not exposed indicates that the particulates came from the air, not the vaseline or were already in the dish.

Day 2 of the Lab

Day 2 of the air pollution lab is several days later. Give students enough time (over the weekend, for example) to expose their dishes for at least 24 hours. Students bring their dishes back to school on the day you instruct.

I show the rest of my video to help them understand how to count the particulates.

Students need to make a template out of graph paper to use on each petri dish. Its impossible to count every particulate so using a template with a few boxes helps them manage the counting.

Students examining square #2 in stereoscope
Using a stereoscope
View through a stereoscope. Each black dot and line is a particulate

Since students work in groups of 4, they divide up tasks. Some count data and some begin their posters. They can switch jobs if they desire.

Counting particulates and making posters
Dividing up tasks
Sample poster

After students finish counting particulates, They can wash the dishes in hot soapy water and dry. The dishes can be used again next year and also for the Soil Salinization lab.


I like students to make and present posters for this air pollution lab. It really helps them discuss and analyze the results. Why their hypothesis was correct or not AND more importantly, why this lab was flawed. They can never fully control all the variables and I want them to see that other factors may have influenced their results. This is the best part of the lab–learning to identify flawed experiments.

My poster template is inspired by Argument-Based Inquiry, but I have added more sections and clearer instructions.

I have had students present to the entire class, present to two other groups, or make a Flipgrid. All three ways have merit.

You can also have students write a formal lab report individual or as a group as assessment as well.

Click for a poster rubric.

A complimentary lab is the Kill-A-Watt Lab.  A lot of particulates air pollution comes from the production of electricity from coal. This lab also helps students develop math skills.




Review for the AP® Exam

Part of our challenging profession is to determine what teaching strategies to use for our classes.  There is no one best way to review for the AP® Exam. What you choose to do depends on your school community and expectations, whether your students have experience with AP® tests, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Popular Strategies to Review for the AP® Exam

  • Practice Exams
  • Review Sessions
  • Mock Exam
  • Quizlet Live and Kahoot
  • Big Study Cards
  • Math Review
  • FRQ Practice
  • FRQ Writing Strategies
  • Review Sites such as Albert IO
  • Review books such as Barrons, 5 Steps to a 5, or Princeton Review
  • Chalk Drawings to Review Processes

    Acid rain chalk drawing

I do not give content review sessions anymore. I used to, but the longer I taught, the less students showed up…and my pass rate increased. So apparently, the kids didn’t show up, because they felt they didn’t need the review…and they were right! I became more strategic in my lessons as the years progressed and organically incorporated review and strategies throughout the year.

I recommend focusing on SKILLS during class time and tell the kids that they need to review knowledge at home. That’s the easy stuff. I give a 6 week study plan for them to review content at home. The AP® Exam is mainly higher level thinking. Talk to the kids about this.

Make sure the kids know the AP® science practices
“Remember” and “Understand” are lower level thinking . The AP® Exam is mainly “Apply”, “Analyze” and “Evaluate”

Sample Schedule to Review for the AP® Exam

I allow about 2 weeks of class time to review. Here is a typical schedule that focuses mainly on skills.

  1. Start with a released multiple choice exams with a diagnostic worksheet. I use either the 2003 or 2008 exam along with a diagnostic guide I made for the chapters in my textbook (Withgott). Kids can see what their current score would be on the AP® Exam, how much they need to study and what specifically to study in the next couple of weeks.
  2. Math review problems. This is often homework if I don’t have enough class time. Click for what they need to know about math.
  3. Geography review. Many released exams have a world map with questions about events, plate tectonics or biomes and kids need to know some basic geography.
  4. Another practice exam and diagnostic. I like the “Practice Exam” found in the audit site. This one is difficult so the kids have experience with a harder exam.
  5. Review the 2016 released exam. I use questions from this exam in my chapter exams so the kids have seen many of the questions before. We spend about 30 looking at the exam and the length of the questions so kids can see how the exam has changed to have longer reading problems. The amount of pages can be overwhelming too since some problems take an entire page. Kids need to physically get their hands on it to feel it.
  6. Experimental design review. I give a lesson on ways to strategize multiple choice questions and FRQs with experimental design.
  7. Quizlet Live with mainly vocab questions.  Warning: I have to adamantly warn the kids that they will NOT pass the AP® exam by knowing all the vocab. They must be able to apply the vocab in complicated questions.
  8. FRQ strategies lesson. I copy a set of the 4 questions from one year (2015, for example) and show the kids what Question 1, 2,3 and 4 look like. The students write all over the document with strategies for each question.
  9.  Review. I use Withgott’s online companion site for online quizzes.  They have a lot of “coaching” assignments in which kids drag and drop, sort processes in order (like eutrophication) and critically think through issues. These assignments are extra credit and done at home.

Final Exam Before the AP® Exam

I give my final exam before the AP® exam.  I give a released exam-multiple choice only. 50 questions in 45 minutes for two days in a row. My kids are good at FRQs by this point and I have too many students to grade all of them so I don’t give FRQs for my final exam.

The next school day, students get to see a Zipgrade printout of their final exam and fill out another diagnostic guide. They can use the remaining couple of days to cram if they need to.  Many students see they are on a borderline score and if they study a little more, they may get to a passing score…or go from a projected 4 to a 5!

Example of a Zipgrade printout along with an exam for students to analyze their mistakes.

Giving the final exam before the AP® Exam is beneficial for several reasons

  • EVERYONE in class reviews-even those not taking the AP® Exam.
  • Many students will ironically study HARDER for their final exam than the AP® exam.
  • Kids are really burned out after the two weeks of AP® Exams and giving them a final exam at that time is cruel.
  • They can study really hard and get both out of the way.
  • Gives the kids a fairly accurate prediction of their AP® Score so they cram if needed so as not to waste the cost of the AP® Exam.

Good Luck!



Biomagnification Activity from the Monterey Bay Aquarium

I really like this biomagnification activity from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I discovered this activity in a Monterey Bay Aquarium workshop at a conference I attended a couple of years ago.  Its accessible for different levels of learners in regular NGSS Biology and regular Environmental science and has enough technical science for AP® kids.

The materials are easy to use and cheap. My school laminates for me to make the items durable for many years.

This activity focuses on POPs-Persistent Organic Pollutants and then plastic pollution in the ocean, but we discuss mercury pollution in top predatory fish as well.

How to do the Biomagnification Activity

The instructions from the Monterey Bay Aquarium are easy to follow,  but here are some pictures that may also help.

Each student gets a card. The instructions tell you the correct proportions for your class size. Each trophic level hunts at the same time.
These are ocean “molecule” cards.

I use the center lab table in my lab, but you can do this outside or inside on the floor. I spread them out and don’t worry about turning them all over. I tell students they can only “hunt” with one hand and place the molecules in the other hand.

A sample of molecules that were picked up and counted,

Students need to tally their POPs only. Then, they write their POP total on a mini post-it note.

The first round is all the phytoplankton–about (15-20 students). The second round is all the zooplankton (about 8-9 students), then the sardines (5-6 students), salmon (2-3 students) and finally 1 human. After the phytoplankton hunt, the other hunters during their round take the tally of POPs on the mini post-it-note from the previous trophic level and then continue to hunt on the table.

Sample data from a “Salmon”

After the simulation, students answer questions, read and annotate/highlight.

A nice leveled reading for students

I make copies of pages 8-10 of the document for my students. This is nice, easy and meaningful biomagnification activity for my students and leads well into Water Quality.