A non-majors biology course is intended to provide an overview of the
entire field.
A majors biology course is intended to prepare majors for courses they
will later take.
Therefore, you want to make sure you touch on the major issues in
biology, but don't
get too hung up on technicalities and specifics.

for a brief list of points
Students should understand
basic cell anatomy and function
mitosis & meiosis & cell cycle
basic tissue types & basic function
organs and basic function
basic mendellian inheritance
DNA structure and function
replication, transcription, translation
levels of organization: sub-cellular, cellular, tissue, organ, organ
system, organism, population, community, ecosystem, biosphere.
Ecosystem ecology
organismal ecology
population ecology
community ecology
Evolution and evolutionary mechanisms (this blends into all other
areas if done correctly)

Some additional things to add:
Science in the news (current events)
Political decision making vs scientific deduction
deduction vs induction

I'm not sure if this is helpful, but it is just a list off the top of my head!

On Fri, May 25, 2012 at 2:49 PM, Johnson, David R <drjohns...@utep.edu> wrote:
> Greetings,
> I am teaching a "contemporary biology" course for non-science majors in the 
> fall and for the first time I am fortunate to be able to organize the course 
> at my discretion. Effectively, I can present any material I wish as long as I 
> hit broad themes such as Cell Theory and Evolution. While this is certainly 
> doable, I am struggling deciding exactly what content to present. The course 
> is meant to present the science of contemporary issues that may be important 
> and/or interesting to the non-science student rather than a broad survey 
> course encompassing all of biology. There is another such survey course with 
> a set syllabus that I am not teaching, and there are two other sections of 
> contemporary biology that are focusing on genetics. I would like to focus on 
> the many ecological issues that both affect and are affected by humans. My 
> struggle involves the fact that this may be the only (or last) biology these 
> students get before we cast them out into the world. So I want to be sure and 
> cover all my bases.
> I am writing Ecolog with two questions. First, what is the relative merit of 
> including as much biology as possible as opposed to focusing on fewer but 
> perhaps more directly relevant ecological topics? These students will most 
> likely not become scientists, and certainly won't need to memorize the 
> structure of all the amino acids, for example. On the other hand, would I be 
> cheating them somehow by not providing enough information to them for making 
> informed decisions on topics outside of my direct area of expertise, such as 
> developmental biology and stem cells?
> The other question I have involves textbooks. Is anyone aware of a text (or 
> perhaps pop-science books) designed for the non-science major that focuses on 
> ecology, in particular the involvement of humans in ecological systems? I 
> haven't been able to find something I like and am looking for recommendations.
> Thanks and I'll circulate a summary response if/when the discussion runs its 
> course.
> Cheers,
> David
> David R. Johnson PhD.
> Postdoctoral Research Associate
> Systems Ecology Lab
> University of Texas at El Paso
> drjohns...@utep.edu

Malcolm L. McCallum
Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
School of Biological Sciences
University of Missouri at Kansas City

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