June _Scientific American_ has an excellent article that very effectively 
relates microbiology to the lives of students.  It considers the ecology of 
human symbiotic microbes.  More microbiology of this kind, and less 
memorization of how microbial cells metabolize could be quite meaningful in a 
non-majors (or for that matter, a majors) biology course.   David McNeely

---- CHELSEA LYNN TEALE <clt...@psu.edu> wrote: 
> 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
> anti-biology
> 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
> happened!
>  
> 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.
> 
> 
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> Chelsea Teale
> PhD Candidate, Geography
> The
> Pennsylvania State University
> NYS Museum Research &
> Collections

--
David McNeely

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