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Environmental Systems and Society

Environmental Systems and Society

Curriculum Intent:

Environmental Systems and Society (ESS) is a complex course, requiring a diverse set of skills from its students. It is firmly grounded in both a scientific exploration of environmental systems in their structure and function and in the exploration of cultural, economic, ethical, political, and social interactions of societies with the environment. The interdisciplinary nature of the course requires a broad skill set from students and includes the ability to perform research and investigations and to participate in philosophical discussion. The course requires a systems approach to environmental understanding and problem solving and promotes holistic thinking about environmental issues. It is recognized that to understand the environmental issues of the 21st century and suggest suitable management solutions, both the human and environmental aspects must be understood. Students should be encouraged to develop solutions from a personal to a community and to a global scale.

Through the exploration of cause and effect, the course investigates how values interact with choices and actions, resulting in a range of environmental impacts. Students develop an understanding that the connections between environmental systems and societies are diverse, varied and dynamic. The complexity of these interactions challenges those working towards understanding the actions required for effective guardianship of the planet and sustainable and equitable use of shared resources.

Environmental Systems and Society is offered as:

  • IB ESS Years 12 and 13 (Standard level only)


Key Stage 5 ESS

Curriculum Overview

Students at Key Stage 5 follow the IB ESS course as part of the IB Diploma.

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
Year 12 (SL) · Foundations of environmental systems

· Ecosystems and ecology

· Soil systems and society


· Ecosystems and ecology

· Biodiversity and conservation

· Soil systems and society

· Water, food production and society

Internal Assessment
Year 13 (SL) ·  Atmospheric systems and society

·  Climate change and energy production


Year 12

Year 12 (Standard Level) students will study the foundation units of the course, setting the groundwork for the units that follow in year 13. Key terminology and ideologies are a big focus of this first year. In addition, students will carry out their Individual Assessment data collection.

Year 13

In Year 13 (Standard Level) students will study a variety of environmental systems and will evaluate the issues and solutions to the issues that these systems experience. Students are encouraged to consistently consider how their own personal value systems, and those of others, link to each of the environmental situations covered in year 13.

Assessment at IB

Standard Level:

Paper 1 – 25%

Students will be provided with a range of data in a variety of forms relating to a specific, previously unseen case study.

Questions (35 marks) will be based on the analysis and evaluation of the data in the case study, which can be from any topics from the course.

All of the questions are compulsory

Paper 2 – 50%

Section A (25 marks) is made up of short-answer and data-based questions.

Section B (40 marks) requires students to answer two structured essay questions from a choice of four. Each question is worth 20 marks and will be marked using markbands (0-9)

Internal Assessment (Coursework) – 25%

A written report (maximum 2,500 words) based on fieldwork. There may be a cost for this compulsory fieldtrip.

Further Reading/ Resources                      

Things to read / watch / listen:

– ‘Silent spring’ by Rachel Carson

– ‘Gaia – a new look at life on Earth’ by James Lovelock

– Film – ‘An inconvenient truth’ by Al Gore


– ‘Greenpeace captain’ by Peter Willcox



Work Experience Opportunities

– Recycling plants

– Beach litter clear up

– Environment agency


British Values:

British Values in Environmental Systems and Societies

Democracy: Comparison of communist and Capitalist states’ approaches to and views on environmental issues

Rule of law: Comparison of communist and Capitalist states’ regulations on environmental issues including Environmental Impact Assessments on large scale developments and legislation for pollution

Individual liberty: The role of the individual in the environmental movement including lobbying and pressure groups

Mutual respect: Discussion of the views of many value systems e.g. technocentric v ecocentric (often linked to cultural or religious beliefs)

Tolerance of others’ faith and beliefs: Discussion of the views of many different cultures and religions and their views, beliefs on the environment. E.g. Islam and Christianity. Evolution