9th Grade – Environmental Science

This introductory course examines various scientific topics including ecology, genetics, food production, immunology and medicine, and environmental destruction from a number of global human perspectives. It integrates the interdisciplinary themes of the 9th grade while laying the foundation for 10th grade Biology.

Unit 1: An Interdependent and Globalized World

In the Globalization Unit, the science curriculum focuses on the resources that we share. As humans we share a single planet, multiple natural resources that are essential for survival, and a host of environmental problems that we are struggling with around the world. In this unit, we begin to look at humans and our relationship with water. Students investigate issues of water quantity, quality and management in various countries and identify common themes. We end this unit by examining our own water supply and usage in Southern California.


Excerpts from “The Hydrologic Cycle”


Blue Gold: World Water Wars, A film by Sam Bozzo

Unit 2: Australian Aboriginal Culture and Geography

One theme that is developed in the Australia unit is the close, interdependent relationship that small-scale societies have with their surroundings in order to maintain balance. In science, we focus on the Aboriginal people of Australia to study the principles of ecology and understand why folk societies MUST maintain a small population for their continued existence. Students learn about the interactions between organisms and the biotic and abiotic parts of the environment. We examine the many invasive species that have impacted Australia’s biodiversity to understand the effect of outside forces on an ecosystem.Students consider their own connection with the environment and how their way of life differs from Aboriginal traditions.


Australia’s Aborigines, National Geographic

Unit 3: Mexican Culture, History, and Geography

The influence of agriculture on the development of society is the focus of the science curriculum in Unit 3. Students learn how humans began to manipulate their environment through domestication, allowing for larger, sedentary populations. We spend the first portion of the unit learning about genetics in order to understand how domestication works and how it differs from natural selection. The later part of the unit addresses the importance of geography in the spread of agriculture and ideas and relates it to the Spanish conquest of the Mexica. The unit ends with a discussion of current systems of industrialized agriculture and the environmental implications of concentrated crop and livestock production.


Selected readings from Guns, Germs, and Steel, Jared Diamond

  • How to Make an Almond
  • Apples or Indians
  • Zebras and Unhappy Marriages
  • Spacious Skies and Tilted Axes
  • Lethal Gift of Livestock

Unit 4: African Culture, History, and Geography

In science, students discover the abundance of natural resource deposits in Africa that attracted many European powers to the continent. We then evaluate the colonial concept of race that was used to justify the deplorable treatment of African people and land. Students examine how this concept of race has changed over time from a biological explanation presented by the colonizers (that supposed innate superiority) to a current understanding of race as a socially constructed tool used to oppress “the other”. Also, we examine one of Africa’s current struggles: the fight to control infectious disease amidst the political turmoil that followed colonial rule.

Unit 5: Chinese Culture, History, and Geography

In this unit, we explore the present-day impacts that have been left on the environment by global superpowers, such as China and the United States. This idea is conceptualized through an understanding of the I=PxAxT equation. Then, we examine each of those factors in China – the growth of population (and subsequent population restrictions established with the One-Child Policy) and industry (beginning with the Great Leap Forward), and what role other nations have in China’s environmental struggles. Through our culminating water conference, students study the water megaprojects China has established in order to provide adequate water resources in fast growing cities.