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Scenes from Faculty Senate

Application For Course Approval

for General Education Program

Course Number: BGS 391
Course Title: Natural Science Seminar
Check the General Education Core Area for this Course: Natural Science
Department(s) in which course will be taught: Bachelor of General Studies
Faculty Member(s) responsible for course: Anne Hubbard, Ph.D., Coordinator, BGS Program
Office: Shepard 252
Office Phone: 401.277.5305
Will non-tenure track faculty teach this course? Yes
If yes, approximately what percentage of sections will be taught by non-tenure track faculty?
   100%. Both instructors have taught this course for over 15 years.

The intergrated skills** that this course will focus on are:

  • _X_ Read complex texts
  • _X_ Write effectively
  • _X_ Use information technology

Course Description (as would be found in catalog):
BGS 391 Natural Science Seminar (6)
Exploration of the natural sciences for BGS students who have completed their Pro-Seminar, started their major, and have the consent of their advisor. (Seminar) Required of BGS students. (N)


Part I

(1) Please indicate the primary learning objective(s) of the course.

Natural science is the study of nature - including interrelationships of the biological (living) and physical (non-living) parts of our world. A one-semester course cannot cover the full breadth of modern science, so this course has been loosely organized to include 3 main topics. First we offer a brief introduction into the nature of science itself, concentrating on how science works and some of the basic theories on which all of modern science is built. Next we explore the physical struc,ture of our surroundings, including topics on the atom, the formation of the universe, and the forces that shaped the earth. After this we turn to biology and discuss such things as the origin of life, DNA, evolution and ecology.

The goal of this course is not to make the students scientists, but to make them science literate. We hope to help them come to a better understanding of what science is (and what it is not) and to help them understand important technical issues that will affect their lives (e.g. genetic engineering, AIDS, and the causes of pollution). Although this is not a memorization course, students need to familiarize themselves with scientific factual material and add some new words to their vocabulary. We are especially interested in helping students feel comfortable enough with science to apply what they have learned in class to discussions of complex "real world" issues, and to recognize the value of their new knowledge. Through this course, they will develop the skills to research many technical issues and voice their viewpoint in a knowledgeable way with governmental and political forces, which often control societal decisions affecting the environment as well as application and use of new technologies. This course will provide a clearer understanding of how scientists research questions about nature, and collect and interpret their data in a number of the natural sciences, from Physics to Biology. The foundation of knowledge will cover the major concepts that have altered and directed modern research in Cosmology and Physics, the Earth Sciences, Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, and even Oceanography.

Specific Knowledge Covered:

  • Interrelationships of the natural world (broad coverage of the natural sciences)
  • Understanding of the scientific method of study
  • Recognition of significant key scientific ideas and discoveries
  • Recognition of essential scientific core principles and concepts, including universal natural laws
  • Steps to research technical information and make informed societal decisions involving new technologies

(2) How does the proposed course meet the goals established for the general education program:

(a) the ability to think critically in order to solve problems and question the nature and sources of authority
This course emphasizes the scientific method as a valuable tool for logical inquiry in solving problems and better understanding natural phenomena. Students are required to hone skills of critical logical thought processes through their required research on technical science topics (term paper plus web science topic) as well as through their readings of the textual material presented throughout the semester.

(b) the ability to use the methods and materials characteristic of each knowledge area with an understanding of the interrelationship among and the interconnectedness of the core areas
The course includes over 15 separate modular areas of the Natural Sciences (e.g., plate tectonics, cosmology, etc.). The entire course is structured and woven around the central premise that there are universal natural laws forming the basis of the physical universe, and these are laws, which can be discerned through observations and application of the scientific method of inquiry. The interrelationship among these topics is emphasized throughout the course, so that the students recognize that science is not a disconnected compilation of "facts".

(c) a commitment to intellectual curiosity and lifelong learning
One goal for this course is to reach an outstanding level of scientific literacy for non-science majors, providing them with skills that will allow them to continue a layman's pursuit of intellectual areas that are sometimes of a highly technical nature without fear using the myriad of knowledge sources uniquely available today through accurate science sources including government and university research outreach efforts.

(d) an openness to new ideas with the social skills necessary for both teamwork and leadership
Students should develop an openness to new ideas through their research efforts and discussions in class and during internet forum discussions. Students will be expected to exhibit thoroughness in their research inquiry and to develop leadership skills of debate in convincing others of their views on technical forum topics, as well as an openness to recognizing errors in their own views if convinced by valid new technical data. Such efforts will require respect of fellow students' viewpoints as well as teamwork where large amounts of information need to be boiled down and discussed by groups of cooperating students.

(e) the ability to think independently and be self-directed; to make informed choices and take initiative
As discussed above in (d), the research efforts undertaken by each student, both for the term paper and the internet forum topic, will require independent thought and self-directed initiative on the part of each student in the class.

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3. How is the course suitable as a Natural Science general education course?

Throughout the semester, this seminar in the natural sciences will:

  • Emphasize through text materials and discussions Develop student understanding of how scientists collect and interpret data in over 15one or more of the disciplines within the natural sciences, as well as the interconnectedness of these disciplines.
  • Provide a foundation of knowledge in both the basic methods of scientific inquiry as well as specific new understanding core knowledge in over 15 topical areas of the natural sciences (e.g., plate tectonics, cosmology, etc. - see syllabus).
  • Create assignments designed to develop critical thinking skills necessary to understand and interpret scientific information. Specifically, text materials will provide the students with examples of how critical thought has led to scientific discoveries of natural laws, and the term paper and web discussion topic are designed to provide the students with the opportunity to hone research skills as well as writing skills that emphasize critical logic in understanding and presenting technical information to others in their class.
  • Develop student understanding of the importance of the natural sciences in resolving real life problems. Examples (not available at this time)
    A key aspect of the entire seminar is to emphasize the interrelationships and importance of the natural sciences in dealing with real-world problems and issues, such as the issue of global climate change.

4. Explain how this course provides opportunities for practice in each of the integrated skills you have listed on the coversheet.

Reading Complex Texts
The students will utilize an excellent text for examining the breadth of the Natural Sciences as well as auxiliary readings from scientific journals, the web and other sources. They will develop the ability to read technical materials and recognize the most critical points/ facts involved. In addition, they will read from various sources such as technical books & scientific journals and valid internet sources such as the N.I.H., the US EPA and other government web sites during the course of their research on a specific scientific topic for web-based discussion (e.g., genetic alteration of human food sources). They will also make use of these sources in researching a specific scientific topic of their choosing (after approval by the instructors) for a semester term paper covering a detailed examination of that topic.

Writing Effectively
Students will be required to answer essay questions detailing their understanding of specific areas of the natural sciences (e.g., cosmology) during 3 exams over the course of the semester. In addition, all students will write a 10 page (min) term paper on a technical scientific topic. Students will be asked to provide an outline of their term paper topic, which the instructors will critique and return. In addition, a writing tutor will review all draft student term papers, and will provide preliminary comments and advice on ways to rewrite their papers prior to final submission.

Each student will be required to interact regularly using a web-based posting site centering on a specific topic chosen for the semester (e.g., genetic engineering of human food stocks). Throughout the discussions, the instructors will provide feedback on the logic being exhibited or being missed by students in their web discussions. In addition, the web discussion forum, because it is real-time, will involve honing real-time discussion skills.

Speaking Effectively
In addition to written postings on the class WebCT site, each student will be required to take part in interactive class discussions centering on a specific topic chosen for the semester (e.g., genetic engineering of human food stocks).

Each student is required to give an oral presentation to the class of their term paper topic in a specialty area of the natural sciences. Students, during their sessions with the writing tutor, have the opportunity to practice and receive feedback for this presentation while explaining the ideas and supporting evidence they wish to convey in their paper/presentation.

Using Information Technology
All students will be required to use the web for researching and developing an annotated bibliography of reference sources on at least one specific natural science topic chosen by the instructors (e.g., genetic engineering of human food stocks). Students will be given resource material on evaluating web sites for use in scholarly work and they will use these guidelines as they evaluate various sources they find. Students will gain in skills to discern the veracity of the various web sources as well as recognize the valuable governmental and other technical sites now available for information that may be critical in their future (e.g., the NIH web sites for cancer clinical research trials etc.). All students will provide a document evaluating critical web sources used for this topic, and by the end of the semester should feel comfortable utilizing web-based information and search techniques for locating accurate technical information.

All students will be required to participate regularly in a web-based discussion forum through the course's WebCT site on the specific topic chosen. In addition, students will have access to a special web site for students provided by Wiley for the text used in this course, including study guide materials, practice tests, and topic outlines. All students will become familiar with use of literature research techniques both in the library and through the web for their individual term paper topic research efforts.

List of kinds of assignments that incorporate particular skills (not intended to preclude other assignments the meet the criteria):

Read Complex Texts:
Students read and interpret research papers and orcomprehensive review articles from "science literacy" journals such as . Examples of review articles might be those found in Scientific American or American Scientist, Discover, and laymen's science -in-the-news components of the science journals Nature and Science. In addition, valid science web sources such as the N.I.H., the US EPA and other government web sites will be used during the course of their research.

Students will read and evaluate technical papers related to a science topic of their choosing (term paper) as well as a common web-based topic the instructors choose. an area of current controversy within their disciple and then take and defend a position relative to that controversy

Write Effectively:
Students will submit both logical discussion comments during web-based forums and a 10 page term paper on a topic of their choosing. a series of lab reports or short papers; Instructor and or TA technical writing advisor feedback will allows students to improve subsequent submissions.

The required Course requires a10 page term paper may be reworked and resubmitted after review comments by a writing advisor and subsequent instructors' evaluation.

Speak Effectively
Students will make regularoral presentations before the class on their term paper topic, with instructor and/or group feedback designed to improve speaking skills. In addition, the web discussion forum, because it is real-time, will involve honing real-time discussion skills through the internet medium.

Use of Information Technology
Assignments involve the use of information technology for both library and web-based search inquiries during the term paper and web discussion assignments.

Assignments require students to access and interpret web-based information, especially for an instructor-chosen technical topic (e.g., genetic manipulation of human foods) for a web-forum discussion.

(5) Will your course sometimes be taught to groups of students larger than 60?

No.

(6) If other instructors teach the course, what will be done to ensure that the proposed content and skills will be maintained across sections and instructors?

The Coordinator of the Bachelor of General Studies regularly reviews the course syllabi and meets with instructors. Currently only one section of this course is taught at a time. Over the past 15 years the same instructors have co-taught the course; at present, there is no problem with regard to maintaining consistency in content and skills across sections and instructors.


Part II

Please provide documentation of the means by which your course attempts to reach the goals of the general education program courses described above. Please attach a syllabus (mandatory) and all relevant course materials that will demonstrate how your course does this. In addition, please feel free to include any explanations necessary showing how the course materials are linked to both the goals of the general education program and specifically to the integrating skills.

Attached Material:

  • Course Description and Syllabus for BGS391, Spring 2004
  • Reference Style Examples
  • Term Paper Critical Information
  • URL's for BGS 391

BGS 391 - Seminar in the Natural Sciences

Instructors:

Chris Deacutis, Ph.D., URI Coatal Institute
Tel: (401) 874-6217
Email: deacutis@gso.uri.edu

Mark Berman, Ph.D., National Marine Fisheries Service
Tel: (401) 782-3243
Email: mberman@mola.na.nmfs.gov

Course Description:

Natural science is the study of nature - including interrelationships of the biological (living) and physical (non-living) parts of our world. A one-semester course cannot cover the full breadth of modern science, so this course has been loosely organized to include 3 main topics. First we offer a brief introduction into the nature of science itself, concentrating on how science works and some of the basic theories on which all of modern science is built. Next we explore the physical struc,ture of our surroundings, including topics on the atom, the formation of the universe, and the forces that shaped the earth. After this we turn to biology and discuss such things as the origin of life, DNA, evolution and ecology.

Goals of the General Education Program for this Course:

The goal of this course is not to make the students scientists, but to make them science literate. We hope to help them come to a better understanding of what science is (and what it is not) and to help them understand important technical issues that will affect their lives (e.g. genetic engineering, AIDS, and the causes of pollution). Although this is not a memorization course, students need to familiarize themselves with scientific factual material and add some new words to their vocabulary. We are especially interested in helping students feel comfortable enough with sci,ence to apply what they have learned in class to discussions of complex "real world" issues, and to recognize the value of their new knowledge. Through this course, they will develop the skills to research many technical issues and voice their viewpoint in a knowledgeable way with governmental and political forces which often control societal decisions affecting the environment as well as application and use of new technologies. This course will provide a clearer understanding of how scientists research questions about nature, and collect and interpret their data in a number of the natural sciences, from Physics to Biology. The foundation of knowledge will cover the major concepts that have altered and directed modern research in Cosmology and Physics, the Earth Sciences, Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, and even Oceanography

Specific Knowledge Covered:

  • Interrelationships of the Natural World (Broad Coverage of the Natural Sciences)
  • Understanding of the scientific method of study
  • Recognition of significant key scientific ideas and discoveries
  • Recognition of Essential Scientific Core Principles and Concepts, Including Universal Natural Laws
  • Steps to Research technical information and make informed societal decisions involving new technologies

Specific Skills Addressed:

Reading Complex Texts (textbook and auxiliary readings)
The students will utilize an excellent text for examining the breadth of the Natural Sciences as well as auxiliary readings from scientific journals, the web and other sources. They will develop the ability to read technical materials and recognize the most critical points/ facts involved. In addition, they will read from various sources such as technical books & scientific journals and valid internet sources such as the N.I.H., the US EPA and other government web sites during the course of their research on a specific scientific topic for web-based discussion (e.g., genetic alteration of human food sources). They will also make use of these sources in researching a specific scientific topic of their choosing (after approval by the instructors) for a semester term paper covering a detailed examination of that topic.

Writing Effectively (term paper and exam questions)
Students will be required to answer essay questions detailing their understanding of specific areas of the natural sciences (e.g., cosmology) during 3 exams over the course of the semester. In addition, all students will write a 10 page (min) term paper on a technical scientific topic. Students will be asked to provide an outline of their term paper topic, which the instructors will critique and return. In addition, a writing tutor will review all draft student term papers, and will provide preliminary comments and advice on ways to rewrite their papers prior to final submission.

Each student will be required to interact regularly using a web-based posting site centering on a specific topic chosen for the semester (e.g., genetic engineering of human food stocks). Throughout the discussions, the instructors will provide feedback on the logic being exhibited or being missed by students in their web discussions. In addition, the web discussion forum, because it is real-time, will involve honing real-time discussion skills.

Speaking Effectively (oral presentations in class on specific technical topics)
In addition to written postings on the class WebCT site, each student will be required to take part in interactive class discussions centering on a specific topic chosen for the semester (e.g., genetic engineering of human food stocks).

Each student is required to give an oral presentation to the class of their term paper topic in a specialty area of the natural sciences. Students, during their sessions with the writing tutor, have the opportunity to practice and receive feedback for this presentation while explaining the ideas and supporting evidence they wish to convey in their paper/presentation.

Using Information Technology (web topic research and discussion)
All students will be required to use the web for researching and developing an annotated bibliography of reference sources on at least one specific natural science topic chosen by the instructors (e.g., genetic engineering of human food stocks). Students will be given resource material on evaluating web sites for use in scholarly work and they will use these guidelines as they evaluate various sources they find. Students will gain in skills to discern the veracity of the various web sources as well as recognize the valuable governmental and other technical sites now available for information that may be critical in their future (e.g., the NIH web sites for cancer clinical research trials etc.). All students will provide a document evaluating critical web sources used for this topic, and by the end of the semester should feel comfortable utilizing web-based information and search techniques for locating accurate technical information.

All students will be required to participate regularly in a web-based discussion forum through the course's WebCT site on the specific topic chosen. In addition, students will have access to a special web site for students provided by Wiley for the text used in this course, including study guide materials, practice tests, and topic outlines. All students will become familiar with use of literature research techniques both in the library and through the web for their individual term paper topic research efforts.

Required Text: The Sciences: An Integrated Approach by Hazen & Trefil. 2004 (Paperback) ISBN 0-471-21963-0

Grading

Grading is based on 3 examinations, a term paper (min 10 page long) and a web-based research and discussion topic. Students are required to make short oral presentations of the term paper topic. Participation in class and web discussions and web-source list also count toward the final grade. The relative importance of each of these factors is as follows:

Exams - 20% each for a total of 60%
Term Paper - 25%
Web Topic Research, annotated bibliography & Web Discussion - 10%
In-Class Participation - 5%

Attendance is important because part of the lecture material is not covered in the text, so the student may have trouble making up missed classes. Make up exams will be offered only if the instructors are con,tacted before the exam with an acceptable excuse.

The instructors for this course do not have an office in Providence, but can be reached by telephone and email (see syllabus), and will provide time before and after class meetings to discuss students' problems. A period at the beginning of each class is devoted to review of previous lectures, and time is made available before each exam to answer questions on the material to be covered.

Web-Based Topic Research

All students will engage in web-based search for technical credible information on a web topic chosen by the instructors at the beginning of the semester. Each student will develop an annotated bibliography of sources on the topic, and once a minimum level of competency on the topic has been reached, students will be required to join a web-based discussion of the topic, with ability to back their views with valid and credible references they have gleaned on the topic, as well as an ability to recognize inaccurate sources and information.

Term Paper

Each student by mid semester should have met with the instructors before or after class to discuss a science topic for their (minimum) 10-page term paper. The paper should be written in a style that defines and clarifies all jargon, and presents the topic to a layperson audience, giving an overview of the issue, with enough new knowledge and specificity to the topic that the reader will feel they have gained new knowledge or insight into the issue if they are not an expert in it. The research can be both library and web based, but web based sources will not be considered primary references unless they are pdf files of published articles / Govt. reports. At least 6 primary literature references should be used as source material for the paper. A separate paper on reference styles for science papers will be provided.

Syllabus

BGS 391 Seminar in the Natural Sciences Spring 2004

Drs. C. Deacutis & M. Berman

Required Text: The Sciences: An Intergrated Approach by Hazen & Trefil. 2004 (paperback) ISBN 0-471-21963-0

January 14
Introduction to the Course (CD + MB)
Overview of the course and explanation of expected efforts by the student

January 19
HOLIDAY - *** Class Meets TUE EVE *** Jan 20

January 20 (*TUE*) - NOTE Tues eve Class!!! How Science Works (MB)
Overview of the scientific method and why important method in understanding the physical universe [Read Ch 1 - Science : A way of knowing]

January 21
Early views of the Universe - Newton's Laws & Beyond Newton. (CD)
Overview of the history of human understanding of how the physical laws of the universe work [read Ch 2, 6 & 7 partial - exact pages in class handout]

January 26
Matter and the Structure of the Atom (MB)
Law of conservation of mass and basic chemistry including atoms, isotopes, and chemical bonds.
[read Ch 8, 9 & 10 - exact pages in class handout]

January 28
Cosmology: The Beginnings of the Universe (CD)
Was there a beginning? Any "strings" attached to the latest ideas?
[read Ch 6, 14 & 15 - exact pages in class handout]

February 2
Energy Laws (MB)
The laws of thermodynamics and why we should care.
[read Ch 3 & 4 (partial) - exact pages in class handout]

February 4
Plate Tectonics: Continents on the Move (CD)
What's the center of the earth really like?
[read Ch 16 (prtl) & 17 - exact pages in class handout]

February 9
Web Eve for web topic research + begin web discussion - see website for times

February 11
In-class Review (MB+CD) + further discuss web topic in class - clarify the fact-gaps for further research focus

February 16
* EXAM 1 *

February 18
Structure of the Cell (CD)
The smallest living anything and the oldest living things
[read Ch 21 (prtl) and 22 - exact pages in class handout]

February 23
The Origin of Life (MB)
Some scientific hypotheses about how life started on earth. The chemical reactions of life.
[read Ch 20 & 25 (prtl) - exact pages in class handout]

February 25
Mendelian Genetics (CD)
Mendel's search for an answer about hereditary traits
[read Ch 23 - exact pages in class handout]

March 1
Evolution (MB)
How simple organisms become more complex over time, and how new species develop
[read Ch 25 - exact pages in class handout]

march 3
AIDS (CD)
A topic all should understand better - what we know about it, what research is being done on it.
[ Read handouts + websites]

March 8-14
*** SPRING BREAK!!! Enjoy! ***

March 15
DNA (MB)
The structure and functions of the molecules of life.
[read Ch 21 + 23 - exact pages in class handout]

March 17
Web eve - Continue discussion of web topic on-line - see web page for times
Anyone changed their original views ?

March 22
Discuss facts and clarify misconceptions and unknowns of Genetic Engineering now that you are "experts" + Annotated List of Web Links & Fact Sources DUE # (MB)
[read Ch 24 + your web research]

March 24
Review (MB + CD)

March 27
** EXAM II **

March 29
Oceanography (MB)
Basics of chemical, physical, and geological oceanography.
[check out websites provided - see web page + handouts]

March 31
Marine Biology (CD)
The plankton, nekton and benthos - who lives out there?
[check out websites provided - see web page + handouts]

April 5
Narragansett Bay (MB)
The annual cycle of production, and the changing health of our state's most important natural resource.
[check out websites provided - see web page + handouts]

April 7
Basic Concepts in Ecology (CD)
How the living Earth really works
[Read Ch 18 & 19 ]

April 12
Nuclear Energy (MB)
Fission, fusion, dating and environmental concerns.
[Read Ch 12]

April 14
Ecology II (CD)
What's so special about the Earth ?
[ Read Ch 16 + websites]

April 19
Statistics and Probability
Why do we need them? Can we use statistics to win PowerBall?
[ Reads to be announced ]

April 21
Pollution I - Nothing "Goes Away" (CD)
What is all this "envirobabble" about? What's it look like for the future of this old planet?
[Read Ch 19 (prtl) + handouts]

April 24
Class Discussion eve - what worked - what didn't for web topic ?

April 26
Pollution II (CD)
Risk surrounds us, but risk management is where we're heading
[Read handouts ]

April 28
** Term Paper Presentations + ***Term Papers DUE @ ***

May 3
Review + Term Paper Presentations (cont)

May 5
Reading / exam prep day

May 10
** EXAM III **

------------------------------

# Annotated List of best web links and fact source sites for web-based topic w/ brief description of each site

* submit hard copy + computer (A: type 1.4 MB) disk

@ Term Paper: minimum 10 text pages typed (double-spaced); more than 6 references