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RULE §112.50Environmental Systems, Adopted 2021 (One Credit)

(a) General requirements. Students shall be awarded one credit for successful completion of this course. Prerequisite: one unit of high school biology. Recommended prerequisite: Integrated Physics and Chemistry, Chemistry, or concurrent enrollment in either course. This course is recommended for students in Grade 10, 11, or 12.

(b) Introduction.

  (1) Environmental Systems. In Environmental Systems, students conduct laboratory and field investigations, use scientific methods during investigations, and make informed decisions using critical thinking and scientific problem solving. Students study a variety of topics that include biotic and abiotic factors in habitats, ecosystems and biomes, interrelationships among resources and an environmental system, sources and flow of energy through an environmental system, relationship between carrying capacity and changes in populations and ecosystems, natural changes in the environment, and human activities that impact the natural environment.

  (2) Nature of science. Science, as defined by the National Academy of Sciences, is the "use of evidence to construct testable explanations and predictions of natural phenomena, as well as the knowledge generated through this process." This vast body of changing and increasing knowledge is described by physical, mathematical, and conceptual models. Students should know that some questions are outside the realm of science because they deal with phenomena that are not currently scientifically testable.

  (3) Scientific hypotheses and theories. Students are expected to know that:

    (A) hypotheses are tentative and testable statements that must be capable of being supported or not supported by observational evidence. Hypotheses of durable explanatory power that have been tested over a wide variety of conditions are incorporated into theories; and

    (B) scientific theories are based on natural and physical phenomena and are capable of being tested by multiple independent researchers. Unlike hypotheses, scientific theories are well established and highly reliable explanations, but they may be subject to change as new areas of science and new technologies are developed.

  (4) Scientific inquiry. Scientific inquiry is the planned and deliberate investigation of the natural world using scientific and engineering practices. Scientific methods of investigation are descriptive, comparative, or experimental. The method chosen should be appropriate to the question being asked. Student learning for different types of investigations include descriptive investigations, which involve collecting data and recording observations without making comparisons; comparative investigations, which involve collecting data with variables that are manipulated to compare results; and experimental investigations, which involve processes similar to comparative investigations but in which a control is identified.

    (A) Scientific practices. Students should be able to ask questions, plan and conduct investigations to answer questions, and explain phenomena using appropriate tools and models.

    (B) Engineering practices. Students should be able to identify problems and design solutions using appropriate tools and models.

  (5) Science and social ethics. Scientific decision making is a way of answering questions about the natural world involving its own set of ethical standards about how the process of science should be carried out. Students should be able to distinguish between scientific decision-making methods (scientific methods) and ethical and social decisions that involve science (the application of scientific information).

  (6) Science consists of recurring themes and making connections between overarching concepts. Recurring themes include systems, models, and patterns. All systems have basic properties that can be described in space, time, energy, and matter. Change and constancy occur in systems as patterns and can be observed, measured, and modeled. These patterns help to make predictions that can be scientifically tested, while models allow for boundary specification and provide tools for understanding the ideas presented. Students should analyze a system in terms of its components and how these components relate to each other, to the whole, and to the external environment.

  (7) Statements containing the word "including" reference content that must be mastered, while those containing the phrase "such as" are intended as possible illustrative examples.

(c) Knowledge and skills.

  (1) Scientific and engineering practices. The student, for at least 40% of instructional time, asks questions, identifies problems, and plans and safely conducts classroom, laboratory, and field investigations to explain phenomena or design solutions using appropriate tools and models. The student is expected to:

    (A) ask questions and define problems based on observations or information from text, phenomena, models, or investigations;

    (B) apply scientific practices to plan and conduct descriptive, comparative, and experimental investigations and use engineering practices to design solutions to problems;

    (C) use appropriate safety equipment and practices during laboratory, classroom, and field investigations as outlined in Texas Education Agency-approved safety standards;

    (D) use appropriate tools such as meter sticks, metric rulers, pipettes, graduated cylinders, standard laboratory glassware, balances, timing devices, pH meters or probes, various data collecting probes, thermometers, calculators, computers, internet access, turbidity testing devices, hand magnifiers, work and disposable gloves, compasses, first aid kits, binoculars, field guides, water quality test kits or probes, soil test kits or probes, 30 meter tape measures, tarps, shovels, trowels, screens, buckets, rock and mineral samples equipment, air quality testing devices, cameras, flow meters, Global Positioning System (GPS) units, Geographic Information System (GIS) software, computer models, densiometers, spectrophotometers, stereomicroscopes, compound microscopes, clinometers, field journals, various prepared slides, hand lenses, hot plates, Petri dishes, sampling nets, waders, leveling grade rods (Jason sticks), protractors, inclination and height distance calculators, samples of biological specimens or structures, core sampling equipment, and kick nets;

    (E) collect quantitative data using the International System of Units (SI) and qualitative data as evidence;

    (F) organize quantitative and qualitative data using probeware, spreadsheets, lab notebooks or journals, models, diagrams, graphs paper, computers, or cellphone applications;

    (G) develop and use models to represent phenomena, systems, processes, or solutions to engineering problems; and

    (H) distinguish between scientific hypotheses, theories, and laws.

  (2) Scientific and engineering practices. The student analyzes and interprets data to derive meaning, identify features and patterns, and discover relationships or correlations to develop evidence-based arguments or evaluate designs. The student is expected to:

    (A) identify advantages and limitations of models such as their size, scale, properties, and materials;

    (B) analyze data by identifying significant statistical features, patterns, sources of error, and limitations;

    (C) use mathematical calculations to assess quantitative relationships in data; and

    (D) evaluate experimental and engineering designs.

  (3) Scientific and engineering practices. The student develops evidence-based explanations and communicates findings, conclusions, and proposed solutions. The student is expected to:

    (A) develop explanations and propose solutions supported by data and models consistent with scientific ideas, principles, and theories;

    (B) communicate explanations and solutions individually and collaboratively in a variety of settings and formats; and

    (C) engage respectfully in scientific argumentation using applied scientific explanations and empirical evidence.

  (4) Scientific and engineering practices. The student knows the contributions of scientists and recognizes the importance of scientific research and innovation on society. The student is expected to:

    (A) analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations and solutions by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental and observational testing, so as to encourage critical thinking by the student;

    (B) relate the impact of past and current research on scientific thought and society, including research methodology, cost-benefit analysis, and contributions of diverse scientists as related to the content; and

    (C) research and explore resources such as museums, planetariums, observatories, libraries, professional organizations, private companies, online platforms, and mentors employed in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field in order to investigate STEM careers.

  (5) Science concepts. The student knows the relationships of biotic and abiotic factors within habitats, ecosystems, and biomes. The student is expected to:

    (A) identify native plants and animals within a local ecosystem and compare their roles to those of plants and animals in other biomes, including aquatic, grassland, forest, desert, and tundra;

    (B) explain the cycling of water, phosphorus, carbon, silicon, and nitrogen through ecosystems, including sinks, and the human interactions that alter these cycles using tools such as models;

    (C) evaluate the effects of fluctuations in abiotic factors on local ecosystems and local biomes;

    (D) measure the concentration of dissolved substances such as dissolved oxygen, chlorides, and nitrates and describe their impacts on an ecosystem;

    (E) use models to predict how the introduction of an invasive species may alter the food chain and affect existing populations in an ecosystem;

    (F) use models to predict how species extinction may alter the food chain and affect existing populations in an ecosystem; and

    (G) predict changes that may occur in an ecosystem if genetic diversity is increased or decreased.

  (6) Science concepts. The student knows the interrelationships among the resources within the local environmental system. The student is expected to:

    (A) compare and contrast land use and management methods and how they affect land attributes such as fertility, productivity, economic value, and ecological stability;

    (B) relate how water sources, management, and conservation affect water uses and quality;

    (C) document the use and conservation of both renewable and non-renewable resources as they pertain to sustainability;

    (D) identify how changes in limiting resources such as water, food, and energy affect local ecosystems;

    (E) analyze and evaluate the economic significance and interdependence of resources within the local environmental system; and

    (F) evaluate the impact of waste management methods such as reduction, reuse, recycling, upcycling, and composting on resource availability in the local environment.

  (7) Science concepts. The student knows the sources and flow of energy through an environmental system. The student is expected to:

    (A) describe the interactions between the components of the geosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, atmosphere, and biosphere;

    (B) relate biogeochemical cycles to the flow of energy in ecosystems, including energy sinks such as oil, natural gas, and coal deposits;

    (C) explain the flow of heat energy in an ecosystem, including conduction, convection, and radiation; and

    (D) identify and describe how energy is used, transformed, and conserved as it flows through ecosystems.

  (8) Science concepts. The student knows the relationship between carrying capacity and changes in populations and ecosystems. The student is expected to:

    (A) compare exponential and logistical population growth using graphical representations;

    (B) identify factors that may alter carrying capacity such as disease; natural disaster; available food, water, and livable space; habitat fragmentation; and periodic changes in weather;

    (C) calculate changes in population size in ecosystems; and

    (D) analyze and make predictions about the impact on populations of geographic locales due to diseases, birth and death rates, urbanization, and natural events such as migration and seasonal changes.

  (9) Science concepts. The student knows that environments change naturally. The student is expected to:

    (A) analyze and describe how natural events such as tectonic movement, volcanic events, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and tsunamis affect natural populations;

    (B) explain how regional changes in the environment may have global effects;

    (C) examine how natural processes such as succession and feedback loops can restore habitats and ecosystems;

    (D) describe how temperature inversions have short-term and long-term effects, including El Niño and La Niña oscillations, ice cap and glacial melting, and changes in ocean surface temperatures; and


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