What's important

Carl Pike PIKE at rsbs.anu.edu.au
Sat Mar 4 21:18:57 EST 2000


Bill and Lee have started a very useful discussion.  Perhaps something that
might be useful to those of us facing the pre-med or non-major problems
would be for people to present some "cases studies" they have found useful. 
I thinik we agree that focussing on a limited number of topics, rather than
"a mile wide and an inch deep", is a better way to go.  If others have
developed such "cases", with sample readings and journal articles, we could
build a "library" that faculty could select from and modify as local
conditions require.  

For example, in my section of our sophomore majors "physiology and
development" course (both plants and animals), I use the response of plants
to elevated CO2 as a "case" for students to learn about stomata, water
relations, etc.

I am thinking about a new general education course on something like "plants
and people". I think I can teach a non-majors lot of basic biology and
botany by using topics such as the origin of agriculture, ethnobotany, and
the current GMO dispute.  I'm sure many of you have done such a course (or
units on these topics).  

>From the earlier posts, I wonder if the following would be useful (or,
perhaps, counterproductive) - as someone presently on leave, perhaps I am
too idealistic!
Several people, starting with Monique, indicated things they thought
students (such as premed, wildlife majors, or just the average citizen)
ought to know about plants for their future lives.  What if on the first day
of class the instructor presented a couple (such as the story of the
derivation of birth control pills from natural plant products, or the effort
to engineer allergens out of plants, or whatever), and then asked students
to identify some others on their own.  (Yeah, I guess you'd get a few
"absolutely no value whatsoever" or "Yeah, I'd like to know about different
varieties of hops used in beer" - hey, I actually saw hops growing in
Tasmania!).

By the way, I just read a book of botanical essays by Peter Bernhardt, who
in my ignorance I had never heard of before -- really neat, and a fine
writer.

Best, 
Carl S. Pike
Visiting Fellow
Molecular Plant Physiology
Research School of Biological Sciences
Australian National University
Acton ACT 0200 Australia
Phone: (02) 6249 4213
Fax: (02) 6249 5075
In phone and fax, from outside Australia
  use (2), not (02)
Email: Carl.Pike at rsbs.anu.edu.au
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