The course-defining criteria should be: What do you want the students to
become because they took your course and what do you want them to do because
of what they became?  
As Francisco says, "...true passionate interest could be elicited from a
class for at least some topics that are much more relevant to who the
students are, where they are in their life, and what they are likely to do
from then on."  

Warren W. Aney
Senior Wildlife Ecologist
Tigard, Oregon

-----Original Message-----
From: Ecological Society of America: grants, jobs, news
[mailto:ECOLOG-L@LISTSERV.UMD.EDU] On Behalf Of Francisco Borrero
Sent: Monday, 28 May, 2012 08:06
Subject: Re: [ECOLOG-L] Non-Majors Biology

Hi all,

I have read this listserv for a good while but have never wrote until now.

I already deleted several of the previous emails so I donĀ¹t remember who
said what. However. I want to make two points:

1- Somebody suggested that a list of suggested topics were more
appropriate in an "Environmental Science" class than as part of a "Intro.
Biology" for non-majors.
I would like to suggest that perhaps something more akin to a "Intro.
Environmental Science" or "Biology and Society", or something like that,
may be much more valuable if a group is to have a single (never
re-visited) biology class, than something more like a classic General
Biology class. Please note that I am not referring to pre-meds or the
like, which after all are a type of biological scientists. I am talking
about mechanical engineers, architects, and business people.
I sincerely believe that despite one's best intentions, the great majority
of non-major attendees of the General Biology-like class will find it
boring, irrelevant, a turn-off and learn little from it. Alternatively,
true passionate interest could be elicited from a class for at least some
topics that are much more relevant to who the students are, where they are
in their life, and what they are likely to do from then on. In fact, some
may even find true relevance between (some of) such topics and what they
are likely to do in their chosen careers.
After all, even if at a very basic level, all students would have had a
high school introduction to what DNA is, why is important, a little bit of
the history of biological and ecological thought, a cursory examination of
the types of living things, etc. Why bore them again with the topics they
have chosen not to study (by virtue of their having chosen a
non-biological major)?

Thus, perhaps a class that tries to quickly survey some major "pillar
topics", without going into great detail, and then tackles current issues
on environmental quality, human impacts, population growth and resource
use, even of the relationship of the water cycle and human activities on
their effects on modifying ecosystems eliciting water and food shortages,
globally important or emerging diseases, and other topics that
non-biologists are likely to continue hearing about in their non-biologist
lives. I realize some of these topics may be though to be more relevant in
Environmental Sciences of even Earth Sciences, but so what... They impact
more the biology as perceived by non-biologists than other, "purely
biological" topics. This is the type of stuff we need non-scientists to
know, since after all, they will be making decisions and building things
that affect everybody else.

2- Chelsea Teale makes an excellent point - Better use can be made of
museum, nature centers and similar institutions. Beyond what they do as
depositories of natural and cultural values, and centers for research that
interests the naturalists (myself included), a major role they can play is
that of serving as resources for "non-traditional" education (i.e,
different that typical classroom stuff). The use of these resources for
age-groups beyond children is incredibly limited. I believe that some
creative thinking and putting into practice could enrich some adult
programs such as those of college non-biology-majors biology classes.

Cheers, Francisco.

Francisco J. Borrero, Ph.D.
Research Associate & Adjunct Curator of Mollusks
Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal
Geier Research & Collections Center
1301 Western Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45203

On 5/28/12 9:45 AM, "CHELSEA LYNN TEALE" <> wrote:

>Instead of addressing
>actual curriculum
>(except to say I
>agree cellular/microbiology is a turn-off for the majority of
>I want to emphasize context through interaction with off-campus
>scientists and
>current events.  Biology majors already know how the subject relates to
>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
>toward the general public), K-12 teacher workshops (demonstrating
>concepts like
>evolution using local/regional examples), and evening programs such as
>the Tree of Life" (to celebrate Darwin's birthday, a local chef cooks a
>food item a variety of ways while a museum scientist explains its
>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
>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
>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
>Because so many museums formed as natural history emerged as a topic of
>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
>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
>touch on.  Some are featured in newspapers summarizing a project that was
>recently published, so you could read the article, discuss the
>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
>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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