Resources for the AP® Environmental Science Exam

Read about the AP® Exam in these various posts. You can also find out the basics of the APES exam on this College Board website.

Labs For Each Unit in AP® Environmental Science

This is a list of labs with links that I do for each unit in the Course Exam and Description. There are many more great labs that APES teachers do. I chose these for the most “bang for the buck”–lots of concepts learned and/or science practices, feasible for many APES sections and large APES classes, feasible for my school’s outdoor area, and budget-friendly from year to year. I typically write small grants for equipment and then use over and over again.

For a list of lab supplies, read this post.

If I have a post written about the lab, you are able to click on the title of the lab to read about it.

Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems

  1. EcoColumns–this lasts for 3 months and covers topics in Units 1, 2, 4 & 8
  2. Productivity Lab –I use a video lab to save time, but there are many versions for students to physically do.
  3. Owl Pellet Lab
  4. Light in the Deep Sea Activity from the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Unit 2: The Living World: Biodiversity

  1. Island Biogeography Lab–There are many wonderful shared variations of this lab. I have a longer, analytical, inquiry-based 5E version on TPT, if interested.

Unit 3: Populations

  1. Cemetery Lab –Many good labs shared by many teachers. A post with mine as a 5E is coming soon.

Unit 4: Earth Systems and Resources

  1. Soil Labs 
    1. Chemistry of Soil (N,P,K,pH). Many good versions of this lab out there and many good kits . I do this lab with ecocolumns.
    2. Physical Properties of Soil (porosity, soil type, color, permeability). (My students do at their summer workshop at the local water agency. But there are many good versions and good kits for this lab.
  2. Tree Rings and Climate Change (can be covered with El Nino in unit 4 or wait until Unit 9)–a post is coming soon!

Unit 5: Land and Water Use

  1. The Tragedy of the Commons Lab
  2. Trees and Forests Lab–Students go outside to measure trees and discover ecosystem services. Many shared versions are out there from teachers. A long, analytical 5E is on TPT, if interested.
  3. Salinization Lab (This is my 1st controlled lab which is used as scaffolding for other experimental design labs)
  4. Cookie Mining–A post is coming soon!
  5. Climate Change and Cities Experimental Design Lab (or in Unit 9)–A post coming soon!
Salinization lab

Unit 6: Energy Resources and Consumption

  1. Kill-A-Watt Lab

Unit 7: Atmospheric Pollution

  1. Particulates Experimental Design Lab

Unit 8: Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution

  1. Water Quality Testing 5E Lab
  2. Biomagnification Lab-This version is from the Monterey Bay Aquarium
  3. Toxins Lab

Unit 9: Global Change

  1. Tree Rings and Climate Change Lab (or in Unit 4)–a post is coming soon!
  2. Climate Change and Cities Experimental Design Lab (or in Unit 5)–a post is coming soon!
  3. Ocean Acidification Experimental Design Lab (if time, I have not had time the last few years)
  4. Measuring Biodiversity. Many good choices out there including a Parking Lot Lab. I sometimes use quadrats for biodiversity.

After the AP Exam
1. Solar Cookers (usually done after the AP Exam as it takes several days). Many options shared from many teachers that are wonderful. I have a longer, analytical 5E on TPT, if interested.

AP® Environmental Science Math Review Practice Problems

These are practice problems to prepare for the math on the
AP® Environmental Science Exam.

For basic math information and formulas, read “What students need to know about the math for the AP Environmental Science Exam”
Read “Last minute tips and hints for the APES Exam” for advice taking the exam.

If you are stuck on some problems, watch math help videos. They are:

Continue reading “AP® Environmental Science Math Review Practice Problems”

Tips and hints for the AP® Environmental Science exam

These are tidbits of important information and some common student errors that many students make on the AP Environmental Science exam.

Make sure you are studying your notes, textbook and/or a review book. Some favorite review books are: A Cartoon Guide to the Environment and ASAP and
Five Steps to a Five. But many others are good as well (Barrons, and ones by textbook publishers).

Know how to answer FRQ prompt using these terms.
Continue reading “Tips and hints for the AP® Environmental Science exam”

FRQ tips for the AP®Environmental Science Exam

These are some basic guidelines for writing FRQs. For help with math, read “What students need to know about the math for the AP Environmental Science Exam”

Basic FRQ information for the APES exam

  1. Always write in complete sentences.
  2. Don’t write more than the question asks for.
    1. If the FRQ asks for two examples, only the first two examples that you write are graded.
    2. If you write more, the graders will read them to check for contradictions, but you will not earn points. Contradictions will take away points.
  3. Introductory sentences or re-stating the question is not necessary. No points removed, but it can take precious time.
  4. Label each section: a. b. ci…….
  5. For a document question (#1), you DO NOT need to quote the document. Read it to get ideas, but pull specific information or examples out of your brain.
  6. Write an economic term ($ or jobs) for an economic question
Continue reading “FRQ tips for the AP®Environmental Science Exam”

AP® Environmental Science math for students for the 2019 exam.

This is the basic information you need about APES math on the AP® Exam.

Read this post for some practice problems.

  • No Calculators. Big bummer, I know, but its the way it is.  You may have heard that this is changing for 2020….it is, but for this year, NO calculators.
  • Pre-Algebraic Word Problems. Many students struggle with setting up the problem. The actual math is not that hard, but setting it up is challenging for many. Practice this with problems your teacher assigns you or with review books.
  • Usually 8-10 Multiple Choice Questions. There are 100 multiple choice questions and 8-10 are usually math related.  The Rule of 70 is a favorite for 1 or 2 of the problems. You DO NOT need to show work for MC questions.
  • One FRQ is Half Math. You have four FRQs in 90 minutes. Question #2 will have math quesitons for half the FRQ. Over the years, the math has gotten easier on the FRQ, but this has not increased the national pass rate. To practice, go to the College Board’s website and print out some FRQ #2s from previous years. Then, go to this playlist on Youtube to help solve the problems.
Continue reading “AP® Environmental Science math for students for the 2019 exam.”

What Do Students Think is Best for AP Exam Review?

I survey my students every year after the AP Exam, because I want to improve my practice and adjust for needs the following year. For review ideas, read this post. Remember, every school, teacher and students are different. What my students need or do not need is unique to them. As a professional, you will do trial and error and your own surveys to find out the best way to prep your own students for the exam. To see a copy of my survey click on this google doc.

I have a lot of students take my course and the exam (140+) and these numbers give me good insight. Overall, my students do well on the exam and have a good amount of self-reflection afterwards. Here are the major points from the past two years of survey data:

Review Materials that Students Think are Very Helpful

  • Students reported sticky notes were the best in preparing them for the AP®  Exam (75+% average in the past two years said they were very helpful).
  • Released exams and diagnostics were also highly rated (75+% average also said they were very helpful).
  • Mastering Environmental Science coaching extra credit assignments were very helpful (70+% average). This is the online program that comes with the Withgott book. It has tutorials called “coaching” assignments. I make several “coaching” assignments as extra credit due the night before the AP®  Exam. Students drag and drop and sort content, watch videos with questions and graph analysis practice.
  • Binders were very helpful to about half my students.
  • Remind texts were very helpful to over half my students. (I do my own texts the weekend before the exam with helpful hints texted every 2 hours or so).
  • Bozeman videos were very helpful to about half my students. I give links and guidance for Bozeman videos in relation to my textbook on their 6 Week Study Plan.

Please note: There are a lot of other review ideas and materials out there that are great. These are just the ones I pick for my students.

2018 results
2018 results

Review Material not as Helpful

  • Review book that the school owns. My school has a copy of a review/test prep book for each student to check out. It is from the textbook publisher. It has not been highly rated by my students. Perhaps this is because they cannot write in it. I will have to ask this year.
  • Google folder with lots of review items–vocab lists, study cards, etc. Anything I think is helpful is uploaded into this folder, but less than 20% thought it was very helpful. (Sorry, I cannot share my review folder, because some items in it are copyrighted).
  • Other review books that the student purchased. Now, this may be skewed, because not every student bought a book.

Class-time Review that was Helpful

I do not spend class time on content review. Instead, my students take released exams (which cannot go home as homework according to the agreement you acknowledge with your AP audit). Most students thought these were valuable to do in class:

  • FRQ strategies lesson-I pass out 4 FRQs from a recent year and I have students write all over the four with hints and strategies and have them decide how they want to tackle in 90 minutes.This is the video I record for my online section of APES.
  • Mathematics review–most said the review was helpful to spend time on.
  • Experimental design practice— I give students practice problems from released APES exams and also AP Biology exams (since they have more released questions) along with the experimental design FRQ from 2012.
  • Geography review
Results from 2018. A 5 was very helpful and 1 was not helpful

* AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this site.

Airborne Particulates Lab Using LED Tap Lights

I recently experimented using LED tap lights as an alternate to using stereoscopes in the Airborne Particulate Lab. You can read about the lab on this post. This is a great lab for kids to practice experimental design.

I purchased LED tap lights from Amazon but they can also be found at home improvement stores.

They work with a little finesse. Here is what the kids need to use:

Students need to focus on the vaseline above the grid. If they focus on the graph paper, they won’t see any particulates. They need to hold the hand lens about 3-4 centimeters above the petri dish. That way it focuses on the particulates.

This method does work, but it takes a little more practice from the kids to see the particulates.

Air Pollution Chalk Drawings

Acid rain chalk drawing

One way to help students memorize the 3 atmospheric processes they need to know for the AP® Exam is to have them draw. Research indicates that sketching or drawing information helps students learn. From my own experience, drawing with chalk helps my students memorize better than drawing on paper. Its a fun activity in groups and the kids truly learn. The 3 processes are:

  1. Tropospheric Ozone Formation (ground-level ozone in smog)
  2. Stratospheric Ozone Depletion (the ozone hole)
  3. Acid Deposition (Acid Rain)

Supplies for Chalk Drawing

I use chalk, because it is the most economical (and eco-friendly) choice. The best chalk is from IKEA–seriously. A few boxes will last the entire year or more. Since I teach 170 students in APES, this is the best option for me.

Neon Expo Markers are another good option. You can write a mini-grant or a request on Donors Choose to fund them.

You can write on lab tables if you have the standard science black finish. If not, you can draw with chalk outside.

Instructions for Chalk Drawing

My students follow the instructions on this document. I do not have them look up information and make their own drawing, because I do not want them looking up and copying diagrams on the internet. I want them to draw out the processes with the details and specifics that have been asked on released AP® Exams. They will learn when they use their brains to make pictures.

We do the 3 drawings on separate days so that students keep the details separate in their brains. Each processes takes about 20 minutes to do and my students work in groups of 4.

I check the drawings when they are fineshed and then they erase with water and paper towels. It is an activity that truly helps students learn the complicated processes needed for the AP exam.

* AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this site.

February = AP® Exam Pacing Check

In February, I like to plan the rest of the year up to the AP® Exam. Pacing is crucial and while kids may complain about going too fast through content, they will complain even more if you don’t make it through everything by the AP Exam. Here’s some advice for pacing.

  • Count the chapters/topics left to cover and assign a number of weeks/days for each. Some topics need more time so check the AP® Environmental Science outline on the College Board website. Don’t forget about holidays, spring break, the prom and state testing.
  • Set days for exams and sticky to it! You will have to cut, cut, cut favorite activities, videos and labs. I have reworked plans multiple times until I’m happy with the items I have left in the time I have.
  • Do not skip anything. Sometimes a minor topic is an entire FRQ. See the 2015 #4 FRQ for an example. Many teachers skipped the chapter on cities that year due to snow days or running out of time and lamented the decision.
  • Post your pacing plan for students. Explain it to them and talk about strategy. Keeps the complaining down when you have strict deadlines and when you pick up the pace and cover chapters faster.
  • Assign content for homework. Explain to kids that NO AP® teacher has time to spoon feed everything AND also make sure students have developed AP Science Practices (which are a big part of the multiple choice section of the exam). Homework might be video notes or assigned textbook reading with reading guides or quizzes.
  • Encourage your students. I say “this semester we are going to pick up the pace, because you have the foundations down of ecology, soil, etc. We can go through the chapters faster now. I do this every year and my students always rise to the task.
  • Give sufficient time for review: I review science skills and do practice exams in class. I allow 2 weeks for this and then give the final exam a couple of days before the AP® exam. Kids review content on their own via a “6 week study guide”.

Essentials for class time

A lot of content is “the easy stuff” and can be read and understood by students without you.
Focus on skills and difficult content during class time such as:

Supplies needed for Airborne Particulate Experimental Design Lab.
  • Difficult content like El Nino, Water and wastewater treatment, Air pollution, stratospheric ozone depletion, GPP/NPP, biogeochemical cycles and LD-50 graphing. 
  • Math. Its better to do math during class time where you can make sure students do not copy and can get help as needed. Assign content at home in exchange. Explain this strategy to kids.
  • Labs that give a lot of “bang for the buck”. Make sure labs cover many concepts, skills and topics. Students need to collect a lot of quantitative data in charts and then analyze this data. The multiple choice section of the AP Exam will have data sets for students to answer difficult questions about. An example of a lab with a lot of data collection, analysis and math is the Kill-A-Watt Lab.
  • FRQ practice, assessments and peer grading. Self-grading and peer-grading dramatically helps students understand how to write better FRQs.
Self-grading and peer-grading with highlighters. Students highlight the exact words that give the point.

* AP® is a trademark registered and/or owned by the College Board which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse this site.