Environmental Science

Denise Ortiz

Photo of Denise Ortiz

Denise Ortiz taught AP Environmental Science at New Braunfels High School for 23 years where she built the program from the ground up. In 2011, she concurrently offered AP Environmental Science as a Dual Credit course to students, growing the program from 1 section to 6, with a successful passing rate.  She is proud and excited to provide students with the opportunity to become scientifically literate individuals who will make competent decisions in their future as it relates to complex environmental issues. At New Braunfels High School, she was Secondary Teacher of the Year in 2013 and 2022 and was a candidate for regional teacher of the year in 2022. She has also received the Mirabeau B. Lamar award in 2012 and the NBISD Alumni award in 2023. She holds a Master’s in Multidisciplinary Sciences and a principalship certification.

Denise is currently an instructional coach at Davenport High School providing science and math teachers with instructional approaches to improve student performance. Serving the AP Environmental Science community, Denise has served as an AP reader, AP Table Leader, and currently as an Early Table Leader for APES.  Most recently she served as a member and Co-Chair for the APES Testing Development Committee.  As a member of the APES community, she contributed to the development of AP Environmental Science labs for the College Board.  Her experiences in content and pedagogy, has led her to work with teachers at Northside Independent School District leading professional development for teachers and reviewing students to prepare for the AP exam.  Her love for sustainability education was further demonstrated when Denise became an ambassador and fellow for EcoRise, a non-profit organization who focuses on sustainability education opportunities for students and teachers. During this time, she led multiple professional development workshops for teachers to use in their course and her students received grant funds for improving campus sustainability.  

Denise enjoys spending time with her husband Rey, daughter and son-in-law, and her grandson, Elias.  Her life has shifted as a grandparent, and more and more, Elias has become the family’s little King.   

Her passion is offering new and experienced teachers innovative and creative ideas with the development, delivery, and execution of lessons in environmental studies and other subjects.  Denise’s pastimes include dancing, traveling, and enjoying all sporting events!

Course Description

The AP Environmental Science Institute will emphasize the college board curriculum framework, using the Course and Exam Description (CED). We will develop an understanding of how the science practices and course content tie together to provide students with an engaging science experience and prepare them for the AP exam. The main objective of the summer institute is to ensure you understand how to plan, teach and assess the AP Environmental Science Course. The structure of the workshop will incorporate numerous lab experiences to demonstrate how to develop lessons that teach both content and skill. Plan on a variety of field work, labs and activities that will get you and your students energized. This will include several college board developed labs, guided inquiry and proven student favorites. We will explore a variety of instructional strategies to create a more inclusive AP science classroom. Engaging students by including strategies such as modeling activity before content, I2 allows for increased rigor and student success and phenomenon anchored learning. We will do a deep dive into AP Classroom and explore the resources for teaching and assessing student progress in AP Environmental Science. Participants will have a clear path for what students need to know and demonstrate to be more successful on the AP exam and engage environmental scientists.  


Day 1
  • Introductions
  • Understanding the Course Framework: Introduction to the CED
  • Unit 1:  HHMI Nutrient Recycling, Carbon Chalk, Nitrogen Escape Room
  • Unit 1, 2, 3:  Squirrel Carrying Capacity 
    • BREAK
  • Unit 2: Biodiversity Lab – Island Biogeography
  • Units 1, 3: Biome Card Sort, Climatographs
    • LUNCH
  • Unit 8:  Set up Lettuce Seed Toxicity Lab, Experimental Design
  • Unit 2:  Ecosystem Services
  • Backward Design – Syllabus, Planning, and Development, Audit
  • Exit Ticket
  • Homework:  Watch Danger of the Single Story
Day 2
  • Debrief
  • Unit 3:  Population Education Resources
  • Unit 3:  Population Projection Cards, Pyramids, Demographic Transition
  • Unit 3: Survivorship Bubbles
    • BREAK
  • Unit 7: Set up Indoor Air Pollution PM Cards – Day 1
  • Unit 4: Solar Insolation Lab
    • LUNCH
  • Unit 4, 5:  Arable Soils, Edible Soils, Agriculture
  • Unit 4:  Soil Microbial Activity and Organic Matter
    • BREAK
  • Unit 6: Geothermal Heat Exchange
  • Discussion: Broadening Access to AP
  • Backward Design – Syllabus Development
  • Homework: FRQ 1 and 2
Day 3
  • Debrief
  • Grade FRQs
    • BREAK
  • Unit 6:  Energy Resources:  Energy Efficiency Lab and Calculations
  • Unit 6: Share-a-Thon
    • LUNCH
  • Unit 7:  Indoor Air Pollution – PM Day 2
  • Unit 7: Picturing Pollution, Acid Rain, Chalk Drawings
  • AP Classroom/ AP Instructional Planning Report
  • Backward Design – Syllabus Development/ Exit Tickets/Textbook Rep
  • Homework: Grading FRQ 3
Day 4
  • Debrief
  • Grade Math FRQ
  • AP Classroom Recap
  • Unit 8: Lettuce Seed Toxicity Lab – Data Analysis
    • BREAK
  • Unit 9:  Greenhouse Effect Model
  • Unit 9: Ozone Modeling
    • LUNCH
  • Unit 9: Activity: Coral Bleaching and Ocean Acidification
  • Closing: Clean Up/Giveaways/Evaluations

Note: Agenda subject to change based on guest speakers, textbook representatives, and accessibility of lab materials.

This course will be assessed a $35 lab fee. All science courses are conducted in labs equipped with state regulated safety equipment.