Instead of addressing
actual curriculum
(except to say I
agree cellular/microbiology is a turn-off for the majority of non-biologists),
I want to emphasize context through interaction with off-campus scientists and
current events.  Biology majors already know how the subject relates to them
but non-majors may need examples, and my single suggestion is
to take advantage of your local museum.

At the New
York State Museum - within a half hour of at least 8 colleges/universities -
research scientists are expected to engage in educational
outreach and regularly present their work through lunchtime lectures (geared
toward the general public), K-12 teacher workshops (demonstrating concepts like
evolution using local/regional examples), and evening programs such as "Cooking
the Tree of Life" (to celebrate Darwin's birthday, a local chef cooks a single
food item a variety of ways while a museum scientist explains its evolutionary
and cultural development).  In any given year the NYSM hosts over 40,000
people in its programs, and other museums are likewise mandated to engage the
public.  Museums also loan material and may have collections
specifically for classroom use; many schools have their own
skulls, etc. for students to measure, but if yours doesn't, ask a museum.
 Instead of talking about how snowshoe hares change color with the
seasons, get some actual pelts.  You may even have luck inviting the
museum mammalogist to your class to give a first-hand account of changes in
hare populations in your area.  At a minimum, the education experts at
some museums will be able to provide you with written material and
local/regional examples.  

Take your lab
sections on a behind-the-scenes tour of
museum research and collections.  Not all
museums will be able to accommodate you, but ask to see what materials are
collected and why - and hear it from the people who do that full-time.
 Such a tour could have something for everyone: herbarium, beetling tank
for cleaning bones, bird-mounting room, DNA lab, fossils being prepared, and so
on.  The anthropology collections may offer insights into human
A&P and the media liaisons at larger institutions might talk about science
communication.  In a single visit you could discuss plant evolution from
19th C.
fossil collection to emerging molecular techniques, and see examples of both. 
Because so many museums formed as natural history emerged as a topic of study,
they can present biology within its historical context and from a holistic
perspective with enough "ooh" and "aah" moments to be digestible for
non-majors.  Even if the
museum does not have an active research program, their collections are still
managed by knowledgeable staff who will at least try to convince the most
student that a drawer of pine cones has value.  Most museum staff are
happy to do this if given sufficient advance notice and a list of topics to
touch on.  Some are featured in newspapers summarizing a project that was
recently published, so you could read the article, discuss the publication,
then meet the person and see where the magic
The more our state museums (and
the like) are able to demonstrate their utility to current administrators and
future voters, the better.  Use these resources as they were intended: for
the public benefit.



Chelsea Teale
PhD Candidate, Geography
Pennsylvania State University
NYS Museum Research &

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