Case studies approach suggestions wanted for non-major plant science course

Wilson Crone cronewil at HVCC.EDU
Mon Mar 29 10:44:03 EST 1999

Hi--I think that this is an interesting approach, as I try to use it in my
community college economic botany class.  "Case studies" to me implies two,
somewhat different items:

1.  Patient with orthostatic BP changes and weight loss after diarrhea, etc.  (I
have a clinical background in addition to botany, so I will use these types of case
studies to emphasize application of concepts in anatomy and physiology courses).
Maybe you could do that approach for nutritional disorders like pellagra.

2.  More to the point of your posting, what about highlighting a major issue or two
about the plant?  For potatoes, the Irish potato famine of the 1840s is an
informative case study--one can talk about the nature of the plant, its nutritive
value, the downfall of vegetative propagation, and Irish/Anglo political
interactions.  For Dutch elm disease, we can highlight the natural beauty of an
elm, the import of the disease, the methods of spread, and interests in plant
breeding (or issues in continuous treatment of plants, such as those elms on the
Mall in D.C.)  Maize, teosinte and its origin, sugar cane and the introduction of
slavery to the New World, pepper and the spice trade, etc., all are wonderful
opportunities to highlight an interdisciplinary focus on a particular plant to make
the larger point.  I guess that's what I mean and tend to use with "case
studies."   Bill Crone

Wilson Crone
Department of Biology
Hudson Valley Community College
Troy, NY 12180
voice: (518) 270-7439    fax: 266-8025
cronewil at

HesperAloe wrote:

> I teach a non-majors plant science course at the community college level.  One
> problem I see is that there is no unifying theme to hold the course material
> together.
> One approach suggested in The American Biology Teacher is to use a case studies
> approach.  For example, in a general biology course centered on humans, come in
> the first day and do an exercise on the transmission of the HIV virus and then
> center the course around HIV...
> Does anybody have a suggestion for a case study in plants that students would
> find compelling?  I certainly see that if we looked at wheat and corn, we could
> probably cover most major areas that the course is designed to cover.  However,
> what compelling topic can I use to interest them?
> One idea I have is world hunger although this certainly does not seem all that
> relevant in the U.S... Other suggestions?
> Thanks!
>                                                Peter
> PS I would also be interested if any of you are already using a case studies
> approach...

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