In place of AP Environmental Science, which Department Chair Cecilia Pan phased out last year, the School is now offering a more appealing alternative: Evolution, Ecology and the Environment.
“This course looks at the relationship between the concept of speciation and ecology, and uses that scientific understanding and background to look at some of the environmental issues of the day,” the course description reads. “This course will draw from several different scientific disciplines including biology, geology, chemistry, and geography. Important themes are the theory of natural selection, energy flow through systems, biodiversity, population ecology, economics, and environmental problems.”
Pan, who received her master’s degree in ecological evolution, wants to equip students with the knowledge and passion to impact change. “We felt like we still needed a really strong environmental course,” says Pan. “To me, evolution and ecology are very much intertwined because in some ways, ecology is a driving force of evolution—and in some ways evolution drives ecology. You really can’t understand how environmental issues unless you understand the science behind them.”
Pan’s students are equally excited about the course. Gregory Stevenson ’15 says he appreciates Pan’s keen insight on pressing issues, and that her energy makes learning all the more exciting. Anders O’Neil ’16 echoes Stevenson’s thoughts, but also spoke to Pan’s effective teaching style. “Mrs. Pan is an excellent teacher, who brings a genuine passion with her to the classroom,”he says. “And I think everyone is having a lot of fun and doing a lot of learning.”
The class is interesting and challenging, but it doesn’t require as much heavy-lifting. For students like Chardon Brooks ’15, this is an appealing combination. “I have never been much a science person, and I just wanted to give myself a bit of a break,” she said. “I’ve never been a great science student, but I wanted to take a course that would further my education and develop my critical thinking skills. Evolution and ecology was a good choice.”
So far, the class has been focusing on decision-making, and the toll humans make on the environment. Earlier this month, students finished a project on ecosystems and organisms in Massachusetts.