Unit 4 AP® Environmental Science

Unit 4 in AP® Environmental Science is about Earth’s systems and resources. It is heavy in Earth Science and is foundational to understanding environmental problems and solutions. Many teachers begin with ecology (Units 1 and 2) of the Course and Exam Description, while others begin with Unit 4 in AP® Environmental Science. They do this for a variety of reasons.

In some schools, students have a strong background in Earth Science and beginning with this unit builds on previous knowledge. Other teachers have more knowledge in Earth Science and want to begin the year confident in the content. Some like to cover things like plate tectonics, weather and soil before ecology. For some its weather related. In colder parts of the county, soil testing needs to be done before the ground freezes. Conversely, in hotter climates, anything outside in Units 1 and 2 can be difficult due to heat.

Convection Currents in the Coriolis Effect Lab from Carolina Biological

What order should you choose?

You can choose whichever makes sense to you and many teachers start with Unit 1 and students do fine with ecology even without the Earth Science background. If you or your students have a stronger Biology background, starting with Unit 1 can build on previous knowledge. (Click for Unit 1 Resources) One drawback to starting with Unit 4 is that the formative and summative assessment resources on AP Classroom spiral and scaffold and become harder as the units continue. Weigh the different options and decide which is best for you and your students. You can even follow the order of the textbook or your own order and its fine.

My students have a stronger Biology background and have not had much Earth science since 6th grade. Unit 4 topics are difficult for them and I prefer to cover Ecology in Unit 1 at the start of the year.

For powerpoints, notes and content videos, read this post.

Unit 4 AP® Environmental Science Resources

Below are resources for Unit 4 in AP® Environmental Science of the Course and Exam Description. No teacher will do all of these items! Choose the ones that best serve your students, lab equipment and what seems fun to you!

Most of the resources linked here are free and can be found on a different post on my website, or the link takes you directly to the website with that resource. I do have links to some paid items from various locations for your reference as many teachers like to see those options too.

Note: If using a phone, scroll to the right to see the entire chart with all the resources.

TopicActivities/Alternate Content Ideas (Most can be filmed for distance learning)VideosLabsArticlesIdeas for Distance Learning Labs
4.1Plate TectonicsPlate Tectonics Diagram/Doodle NotesPlate-Type Effects on Volcanoes-ESRI Virtual Lab
Origami Plate Tectonics
(Rock cycle is good to insert here as its used later in Unit 6)Origami Rock CycleOreo Plate Tectonics
4.2Soil Formation and ErosionEdible Soil LayersPhysical Characteristics of Soil Lab. Click for Carolina LabSoil Weathering
at-home lab
4.3Soil Composition and PropertiesSoil Texture TriangleDirt, the Movie

(Click for worksheet)
Chemistry of Soil Lab.
Click for Supplies.
Travel Patterns of Wind-Blown MicrobesCase Study: Earthworms
Soil Diagram/Doodle NotesCarolina Physical and Chemical Properties of Soil KitText-Analysis Graphic OrganizerSoil texture labs at home
Carolina Soil Productivity LabData Nugget: Marvelous Mud
4.4Earth’s AtmosphereAtmospheric Science Diagram/Doodle Notes
4.5Global Wind PatternsCoriolis Effect Lab from CarolinaCreate a Sea Breeze-at home lab
Website Post about Carolina Lab
4.6WatershedsOrigami WatershedsA River Runs Through it ESRI Watershed Virtual Lab
Watershed Diagram NotesNSTA article-Introduction to WatershedsModel My Watershed
How Dirt Cleans Water
4.7Solar Radiation and Earth’s SeasonsAtmospheric Science Diagram/Doodle NotesSeasons at home lab
Seasons Card Sort from TPT
4.8Earth’s Geography and ClimateOrigami Desert Formation-Rain Shadow Effect
4.9El Nino and La NinaEl Nino Drawing notesEl Nino Aversely Affects GrowthEl Nino ESRI Virtual Lab
El Nino WheelOcean Currents in your Kitchen
At home lab

Click for Unit 1 Resources
Click for Unit 2 Resources
Click for Unit 3 Resources
Click for Unit 4 Resources
Click for Unit 5 Resources
Click for Unit 6 Resources
Click for Unit 7 Resources
Click for Unit 8 Resources
Click for Unit 9 Resources

What about content? Click to learn about different ways to deliver content besides powerpoints.

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