Environmental Science and Biocomplexity
Environmental Science and Biocomplexity engages students in understanding the complex fabric of relationships between humans and the environment and the land- and resource-use challenges increasingly confronting society. It provides an excellent capstone experience for 11th and 12th grade students when used as an individual replacement module, a semester course, or a year-long intensive series of four curriculum units.
Biocomplexity is inquiry based.
The curriculum consists of authentic, inquiry-based field and lab investigations designed around cases in urban, agricultural, tropical, and polar systems. It builds on ecology, environmental science, human ecology, geography, economics, and anthropology.
Biocomplexity aligns with the Framework for the Next Generation Science Standards.
Because of its strong emphasis on science practices, disciplinary content, and cross-cutting concepts, the curriculum is very well aligned with the Framework for the Next Generation Science Standards. Students address environmental land-use challenges, choosing solutions and providing arguments and evidence to defend their choices. They model relationships among components in systems and use their models to make predictions.
Biocomplexity is meaningful to students’ lives.
Understanding the nature of the complex relationships between humans and the environment is vital and important for all citizens in an era of global human impact on the environment. This curriculum helps students acquire a biocomplex way of thinking; and with an increased knowledge of how Earth systems work, students can use biocomplexity science to make a positive difference in their environments.
Urban Ecology Unit
Students develop ecosystem literacy at the local scale of their familiar schoolyard ecosystem. They make a land use decision regarding the addition of an athletic field to the school grounds and investigate how land use impacts hydrology, nitrogen flux, biotic factors, social factors, and ecosystem services. They build a case for their chosen land use decision by constructing evidence-based arguments that take impacts, ecosystem services and social factors into account.
Students explore the impact of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity as they consider the proposed conversion of farmland to a suburban housing development. They map landscape elements and investigate biodiversity, social factors, fluxes of carbon, the economics and role of commodity subsidies, and the impact of green design. They debate land use alternatives and build a coherent scientific case to support their chosen land use plan for an abandoned farm.
Students explore connections between the agricultural and grazing practices currently responsible for large-scale deforestation in Amazonia, and local, regional, and global climate. They investigate the role of rainforest in regulating atmospheric gases and stabilizing rainfall. They analyze patterns of Amazonian deforestation and habitat fragmentation, analyze the economic ecology of soybean production, cattle ranching and forestry land uses, and conduct a stakeholder analysis. Finally, student teams prepare a plan for a small region of Amazonia, juggling types of land use to optimize critical factors such as biodiversity conservation, carbon sequestration, economic benefits and viable agriculture.
Since habitat disruption due to climate change is at its most dramatic in the Arctic, many species are showing signs of rapid impacts. Students explore impacts on the Arctic biota that result from changes related to local warming. They investigate abiotic changes due to fluxes of heat energy in the Arctic. They learn about population dynamics, conservation biology, adaptation and natural selection to understand the УoptionsФ available to Arctic species. Building on data about already occurring changes, they forecast what is likely to happen to selected Arctic species as the climate continues to change, and make a case for appropriate conservation strategies for these species.