Exciting New Classes Being Offered Next Year!

As we get ready for a new school year we are excited for all that is ahead. We are happy to announce that next year we will be offering three new courses to our curriculum. Students will have the opportunity to take AP Environmental Science, AP Computer Science Principles, and Cultural Studies. Below we share a description of each course and what students are to expect if they decide to enroll.

The AP Environmental Science course is designed to be the equivalent of a one-semester, introductory college course in environmental science, through which students engage with the scientific principles, concepts, and methodologies required to understand the interrelationships within the natural world. The course requires that students identify and analyze natural and human-made environmental problems, evaluate the relative risks associated with these problems, and examine alternative solutions for resolving or preventing them. Environmental science is interdisciplinary, embracing topics from geology, biology, environmental studies, environmental science, chemistry, and geography.


Students should have completed two years of high school laboratory science—one year of life science and one year of physical science (e.g., a year of biology and a year of chemistry). Due to the quantitative analysis required in the course, students should also have taken at least one year of algebra. Also desirable (but not necessary) is a course in earth science.


Although there are no specific AP Environmental Science labs or field investigations required for the course, it is required that students have the opportunity to spend a minimum of 25% of instructional time engaged in hands-on, inquiry-based laboratory and/or fieldwork investigations.

The course content is organized into nine commonly taught units, which have been arranged in the following suggested, logical sequence:

  • Unit 1: The Living World: Ecosystems
  • Unit 2: The Living World: Biodiversity
  • Unit 3: Populations
  • Unit 4: Earth Systems and Resources
  • Unit 5: Land and Water Use
  • Unit 6: Energy Resources and Consumption
  • Unit 7: Atmospheric Pollution
  • Unit 8: Aquatic and Terrestrial Pollution
  • Unit 9: Global Change

In addition, the following big ideas serve as the foundation of the course, enabling students to create meaningful connections among concepts and develop deeper conceptual understanding:

■ Energy Transfer: Energy conversions underlie all ecological processes. Energy cannot be created; it must come from somewhere. As energy flows through systems, at each step, more of it becomes unusable.

■ Interactions Between Earth Systems: The Earth is one interconnected system. Natural systems change over time and space. Biogeochemical systems vary in ability to recover from disturbances.

■ Interactions Between Different Species and the Environment: Humans alter natural systems and have had an impact on the environment for millions of years. Technology and population growth have enabled humans to increase both the rate and scale of their impact on the environment.

■ Sustainability: Human survival depends on developing practices that will achieve sustainable systems. A suitable combination of conservation and development is required. The management of resources is essential. Understanding the role of cultural, social, and economic factors is vital to the development of solutions.

AP Environmental Science Practices

■ Concept Explanation: Explain environmental concepts, processes, and models presented in written format.

■ Visual Representations: Analyze visual representations of environmental concepts and processes.

■ Text Analysis: Analyze sources of information about environmental issues.

■ Scientific Experiments: Analyze research studies that test environmental principles.

■ Data Analysis: Analyze and interpret quantitative data represented in tables, charts, and graphs.

■ Mathematical Routines: Apply quantitative methods to address environmental concepts.

■ Environmental Solutions: Propose and justify solutions to environmental problems.

AP Computer Science Principles introduces students to the breadth of the field of computer science. In this course, students will learn to design and evaluate solutions and to apply computer science to solve problems through the development of algorithms and programs. They will incorporate abstraction into programs and use data to discover new knowledge. Students will also explain how computing innovations and computing systems, including the Internet, work, explore their potential impacts, and contribute to a computing culture that is collaborative and ethical.

PREREQUISITESIt is recommended that students in the AP Computer Science Principles course have successfully completed a first-year high school algebra course with a strong foundation of basic linear functions, composition of functions, and problem-solving strategies that require multiple approaches and collaborative efforts. In addition, students should be able to use a Cartesian (x, y) coordinate system to represent points on a plane. It is important that students and their advisers understand that any significant computer science course builds upon a foundation of mathematical reasoning that should be acquired before attempting such a course.Prior computer science experience is not required to take this course.

The following are the major areas of study, or big ideas, that serve as the foundation of the course, enabling students to create meaningful connections among concepts and develop deeper conceptual understanding:

■ Creative Development: When developing computing innovations, developers can use a formal, iterative design process or a less rigid process of experimentation, and will encounter phases of investigating and reflecting, designing, prototyping, and testing. Collaboration is an important tool at any phase of development.

■ Data: Data are central to computing innovations because they communicate initial conditions to programs and represent new knowledge.

■ Algorithms and Programming: Programmers integrate algorithms and abstraction to create programs for creative purposes and to solve problems.

■ Computing Systems and Networks: Computer systems and networks are used to transfer data.

■ Impact of Computing: Computers and computing have revolutionized our lives. To use computing safely and responsibly, we need to be aware of privacy, security, and ethical issues.

Each big idea is broken down into teachable segments called topics.

The following computational thinking practices describe what skills students should develop during the course:

■ Computational Solution Design: Design and evaluate computational solutions for a purpose.

■ Algorithms and Program Development: Develop and implement algorithms.

■ Abstraction in Program Development: Develop programs that incorporate abstractions.

■ Code Analysis: Evaluate and test algorithms and programs.

■ Computing Innovations: Investigate computing innovations.

■ Responsible Computing: Contribute to an inclusive, safe, collaborative, and ethical computing culture.

 Cultural Studies will address the critical need to explore how traditional and non-traditional forms of culture impact and shape our learning and lives.  Cultural studies will expand and broaden student concepts of what culture is and what it means. The course will address the many facets of culture, how it is formed, and the impact it has on our learning and how we perceive the world.  We will delve deeper into the aspects of various cultures exploring traditions, political and religious beliefs, music, literature, and more. The critical issues of bias, prejudice, racism, sexism and classism will also be investigated, focusing on how we as a society can equitably integrate and appreciate a variety of cultures.

Erin Donovan 20′

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