Using Switch Classroom as Scaffolding for AP Environmental Science Curriculum

Kathy Daniels  ·  SEA Teacher Advisory Council
June 22, 2022

I teach AP Environmental Science in a small town in Indiana.  Our high school is about 900 students in grades 9-12 and we offer several AP courses. I teach AP Environmental and several other courses.  I have used the Project/Problem Based Learning (PBL) curriculum from Lucas Education for the last 9 years.  The AP approved curriculum I use is called the Knowledge in Action (KIA) curriculum.

The units I teach throughout the year in AP Environmental Science deal with defining sustainability, calculating our personal ecological footprint, studying our community’s ecology, investigating the connections between farming and food systems, making choices about the economy and ecology of an island, and finishing with a global climate debate.  

The materials found with the KIA curriculum are helpful, but as with all PBL, students have more voice and choice when it comes to the final products (i.e. poster, video, slide presentation, letter to local stakeholder, etc.) for each project unit.  This variability can be a challenge to manage as each student or group will require different guidance and content resources.  This is where I find Switch Classroom to be very useful at filling in the gaps or answering questions students have during each of these units.  For each unit I post a list of videos or lessons I anticipate students will need to use to formulate their ideas and complete their projects.  

In the first unit, as we are learning about sustainability and our ecological footprint, I use Can We Switch? as an introduction at the beginning of the first day to get students thinking about all the variables when it comes to changing the energy we use.  Students are challenged to think about energy infrastructure, how energy demand varies from place to place, from season to season, and even hour to hour.  Students are also introduced to the 3 Es, (energy, the economy, and the environment) and learn how each of these must be satisfied if we are to change our energy consumption patterns.  Specific lessons and videos I assign in the first unit project  include Science and Sources of Electricity Electric Infrastructure, and an Introduction to Environmental Issues.  On Switch Classroom students can view these videos, answer quiz questions, and complete short reflective writing exercises. I also help students find additional resources, such as videos, lessons, or presentations specific to their driving questions in each project.  These additional resources are easily located by using the Offline Teaching resources where they are organized by activities, curriculum videos, and presentations.  You can also search the entire video library by clicking on the Video Library link at the bottom of the list.

As the national facilitator for the Lucas Education KIA APES curriculum, I find APES teachers using this curriculum have responded with enthusiasm to the Switch resources I have shared with them.  Most of the videos and lessons are very short so students are not intimidated by such small, digestible bites of information.  I would encourage you, if you teach Environmental Science or AP Environmental Science, to also look carefully through the Offline Teaching Resources where you will find a complete list of classroom activities such as quizzes, reviews, and writing exercises, curriculum videos, curriculum presentations, and the complete video library.  I have been using the Switch resources since before the Switch website, and I can testify the materials are factual, non-political, and even entertaining! 

If you teach AP Environmental Science and use the KIA curriculum, watch for future blog posts describing how I use Switch with each of the six PBL units, or in general, how to use these great resources with your traditional or flipped APES classes.

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