Gourmet to Galapagos: experiential learning in the sciences.Introduction
Honors has a reputation of not being as well represented in the biological and physical sciences as in the behavioral sciences and other traditionally liberal arts liberal arts, term originally used to designate the arts or studies suited to freemen. It was applied in the Middle Ages to seven branches of learning, the trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and the quadrivium of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. . I teach at an institution where this is slowly changing. Having come through honors as a student, I look for ways to incorporate the honors philosophy into my biology-related courses. In January 2006, I had the opportunity to join an NCHC NCHC National Center for High-Performance Computing (Taiwan)
NCHC National Coalition on Health Care
NCHC National Collegiate Honors Council
NCHC North Carolina Horse Council
NCHC North Coast Hardcore (Australia) Faculty Institute in Miami, Florida “Miami” redirects here. For the Native American tribe, see Miami tribe.
Miami is a major city in southeastern Florida, in the United States. It is the county seat of Miami-Dade County. Miami is a gamma world city with an estimated population of 404,048. . I was drawn to this particular institute for many reasons: as a biologist I wanted to see the Everglades, one of the areas we would visit in our exploration of built and endangered environments, and, more importantly, I wanted tools and ideas for employing experiential learning in my courses.
I was not disappointed on either count. In fact, I found out how easily and quickly Place as Text could be applied to the sciences well before our visit to the Everglades in my reaction essay to the Institute's Miami Beach Miami Beach, city (1990 pop. 92,639), Dade co., SE Fla., on an island between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean; inc. 1915. It is connected to Miami by four causeways. as Text explorations. Here is what I wrote after one day on the beach, which included viewing a PBS PBS
in full Public Broadcasting Service
Private, nonprofit U.S. corporation of public television stations. PBS provides its member stations, which are supported by public funds and private contributions rather than by commercials, with educational, cultural, special on Carl Fisher, exploring just one neighborhood in a small group, and participating in the general debriefing at the Wolfsonian Museum:
Trophic trophic /tro·phic/ (tro´fik) (trof´ik) pertaining to nutrition.
Of, relating to, or characterized by nutrition. Levels and Pyramid Schemes: The Tragic Transformations of Miami Beach
Mr. Miami Beach, Carl Fisher: overachiever, millionaire, and uber consumer. His vision of a wealthy vacationer's paradise destroyed a mangrove mangrove, large tropical evergreen tree, genus Rhizophora, that grows on muddy tidal flats and along protected ocean shorelines. Mangroves are most abundant in tropical Asia, Africa, and the islands of the SW Pacific. ecosystem and contributed to the rise of roads and automobiles in the U.S. He must be one of a handful of individuals who have had the largest impact on Florida, U.S., and global environmental health and quality. Yet, in keeping with our admiration of wealthy entrepreneurs, he is remembered with a nostalgic and awed reverence. How do the lost ecosystem services Humankind benefits from a multitude of resources and processes that are supplied by natural ecosystems. Collectively, these benefits are known as ecosystem services and include products like clean drinking water and processes like the decomposition of wastes. from habitat alteration compare to the millions bought and sold here? If considered long term, the dollar value of the natural benefits lost likely outweighs the human economic valuation of the converted swamplands. But environmental valuation is difficult and predicated on several assumptions. What about the Native Americans who first modified this environment to suit their needs? Were they not stricken by invasive diseases marching ahead of explorers from the Old World? Were they not corralled, removed, and impoverished? Several waves of transformations preceded Carl Fisher.
And his life reads like a metaphor for Miami Beach: boom and bust In economics, the term boom and bust refers to the movement of an economy through economic cycles. The Boom-Bust economic cycle
According to most economists, an economic boom is typically characterized by an increased level of economic output (GDP), a corresponding , glamour and goading, disease, hurricane, death, and resurrection. The juxtaposition of fabulous wealth and fame with poverty, immigration immigration, entrance of a person (an alien) into a new country for the purpose of establishing permanent residence. Motives for immigration, like those for migration generally, are often economic, although religious or political factors may be very important. , and drug addiction makes Miami Beach and its history fabulously intriguing. Moreover, this history seems to be on fast-forward, much as Carl Fisher lived his life: from nonexistent non·ex·is·tence
1. The condition of not existing.
2. Something that does not exist.
non to scores of high-rise hotels and astronomical property values, all within a century.
The recent cultural history is akin to natural ecological succession in some respects. Much as a hurricane can wipe out most life on a barrier island, which can be recolonized later, waves of people in Miami Beach have come and gone. Wealthy land speculators preceded wealthy vacationers and mafia-style enterprise. Weather, religious, and political refugees moved into the general area. Retirees came, rested, and died. Modest dwellings became crack houses and were revitalized into multistory condominiums and hotels. Is this an example of repeat succession with differing stochastic outcomes, or is this an example of the many stages of physical, cultural, and environmental succession following the catastrophic habitat changes of the early twentieth century?
Residents, employees, and vacationers also talk of dramatic and large changes in the relatively modest timeline of five to twenty years TWENTY YEARS. The lapse of twenty years raises a presumption of certain facts, and after such a time, the party against whom the presumption has been raised, will be required to prove a negative to establish his rights.
2. . Change seems almost fractal here. No matter the scale of geography or time, change is everywhere. People come and go, places come and go, buildings come and go. Individuals familiar with Miami Beach suggest that someone living here for two years has been here a long time. Community is hard to build on such transience. As a holiday destination, that may not matter. Night clubs, bars, restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops--these all blink in and out like some organic metapopulation living off the burnt flesh of tourists. (Graham & Machonis 19)
Upon returning to Arizona, I started exploring various ways of incorporating Place as Text pedagogy into course content. My experiences writing about Miami Beach's uber consumer is what perhaps inspired a first application to University of Arizona's sustainability course.
Table as Text: Sustainable Eating in the Desert Southwest
In fall 2006, a colleague, Guy McPherson, and I put together an Honors Colloquium col·lo·qui·um
n. pl. col·lo·qui·ums or col·lo·qui·a
1. An informal meeting for the exchange of views.
2. An academic seminar on a broad field of study, usually led by a different lecturer at each meeting. on food sustainability. Our course text was The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, with many other readings scattered in where appropriate. The format of the course was mostly discussion, with weekly writing prompts to facilitate participation, reflection, and retention. We wanted to design a science-based course that would appeal to a broad audience and would require creativity and active learning. By the end of the course, we wanted students to get their hands dirty and put their ideas where their mouths were.
At the beginning of the course, we asked students to describe their favorite meal and discuss its sustainability. A number of them wrote about sustenance, caloric caloric /ca·lo·ric/ (kah-lor´ik) pertaining to heat or to calories.
1. Of or relating to calories.
2. Of or relating to heat. content, and the stick-to-the ribs quality of things like macaroni macaroni: see pasta. and cheese. We were looking for something rather different. Sustainability for a biologist is more about continued availability of reliable resources for hundreds or many thousands of years into the future. These resources include pollinator species, crops, energy, waste assimilation capacity, water, and many others. Sustainability can also be applied to human societies and their persistence into the future, a point we hoped to make in the course.
During the next fifteen weeks, we directed discussions about energy inputs, barrel-of-oil equivalents, net energy, invasive species, the green revolution, externalities such as pesticides and habitat loss, seasonality, and the fact that the average piece of food eaten in the U.S. has traveled over 1200 miles. The students began to understand the myriad ramifications of food choices. By examining their own diets, each student was invested in the course topics. What were the ingredients in chocolate chip cookies and where did they come from? Could the students pronounce even half the ingredients in a Twinkie Twinkie® defense Forensic psychiatry A legal tack in which a defendant claims that a criminal act resulted from chemical imbalances induced by 'junk food,' and not criminal intent. ? The answers were enlightening (try these two: polysorbate polysorbate /poly·sor·bate/ (pol?e-sor´bat) any of various oleate esters of sorbitol and its anhydrides condensed with polymers of ethylene oxide, numbered to indicate chemical composition and used as surfactant agents. 60 and stearoyl lactylate) for both us and the students.
To wrap up the course, we wanted to go well beyond classroom discussion and weekly writing assignments. We asked the students to prepare a sustainable meal based on our mutual understanding of sustainability in the context of earth resources and ecosystem services. They were in charge of the menu and chose the components and the ingredients. What made the assignment so useful was its reliance on student creativity, hands-on preparation, and background research. The dishes they created turned out to be simple, mostly vegetarian, made with locally procured ingredients, and served with enthusiastic explanations. Meat was scarce at our table because only about 10% of the energy, on average, makes it from one trophic level to the next; fewer overall resources are needed when we eat plants than when we eat animals that ate plants. Local beans, goat cheeses, saguaro saguaro: see cactus.
Large, candelabra-shaped, branched cactus (Cereus giganteus, or Carnegiea gigantea) native to Mexico, Arizona, and California. Slow-growing at first, mature saguaros may eventually reach 50 ft (15 m) in height. cactus fruits, and other treats graced our table. One of my favorites was homemade tortillas from mesquite flour with nopalito (prickly-pear cactus pads) salsa. All students had tangible evidence of their increased understanding of the implications of dietary choices, and everyone tasted the fruits of their learning. Now all we need to do is figure out a way to increase rainfall in southern Arizona so all of us (> 1 million in Pima County) can live here sustainably.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Transportation as Text
Table as Text was the first installment of an annual course on sustainable living. While our first round focused on food, the fall 2007 theme explored transportation. Our primary text was a recent book, Lynn Sloman's Car Sick, which generated ample discussion and dovetailed nicely with other readings such as "Explosion of the Suburbs" (Mowbray 74-92) and writing prompts about peak oil and other end-of-empire scenarios. However, our most dramatic impact came from having the twelve car-savvy students transport themselves using myriad modes of transportation other than personal autos.
In the language of Place as Text, mapping, listening, and observing were readily pursued in our sustainable transportation course. For example, we gave students a physical destination in town, a local grocery store catering to Hispanic immigrants. Then each small group was tasked with getting to that location using a different form of transportation considered alternative in the Southwest-by foot, bicycle, bus, or taxi. Along the way students interacted with their local environment--the people, the places, the occasional animals, and other components. Students actively mapped (where was traffic bad? where did the school children wait for the bus?), listened (why did the other bus riders choose this mode on this day? why did the taxi driver choose this profession?), and observed (are certain modes of transportation restricted to certain economic classes? which modes are incompatible with other modes? which modes are sustainable on the time-scale of centuries?). At the destination, the students took stock of their voyage and prepared to return to campus via a different assigned form of transportation. Not all combinations were possible because bikes are allowed on local buses, which have bike racks, but not in taxis.
The class later assessed the pros and cons of each mode of transport, comparing comfort level, convenience, immediate cost, infrastructure, pollution, and other components. Class discussion highlighted the lack of bike lanes and sidewalks, the hot, sunny weather, and the dead animals along the road. Students often complained about the time required to wait for the bus as well as the lack of shade when walking. Overall, no one mode of transportation was the hands-down winner, but students were much more aware of the monetary, environmental, and comfort considerations that go into every transportation decision. They noted that they now felt better able to evaluate the personal and global implications of transportation.
Homework assignments involved other destinations, modes of transportation that a group did not yet use, as well as times of day or weekends that also influence how transportation, the environment, and the individual might interact. Research into the costs of car production, road building, tailpipe tail·pipe
The pipe through which exhaust gases from an engine are discharged. Also called exhaust pipe.
a pipe from which exhaust gases are discharged, esp. emissions, and light rail required more traditional library searches but was also approached in a modified Place as Text format with small groups exploring different subjects and returning to the group as experts in order to enrich our composite understanding of the sustainability of transportation options. Students also demonstrated their creative responses to the course content and new experiences through poetry. (1)
During one of several nearby field trips, the students met author Brad Lancaster, an alternative-lifestyle and water-harvesting guru. Students were enthralled en·thrall
tr.v. en·thralled, en·thrall·ing, en·thralls
1. To hold spellbound; captivate: The magic show enthralled the audience.
2. To enslave. by his off-the-grid, below-poverty-level, yet fulfilled lifestyle and particularly enjoyed hearing about how he picks up friends at the Tucson airport. Lancaster rides out to the airport on a bicycle, to which a second bicycle is strapped. At the airport, he swaps the second bicycle for the friend's luggage and the two pedal home. Only really good friends ask him to pick them up more than once, especially in the summer.
According to Sloman, approximately 40% of the trips British and U.S. citizens make by car could be made using other modes of transportation without any changes in infrastructure or bus schedules or the like. These are the soft or easy changes. Another 40% could be done without a car, but would require addition of bus routes, different times of operation, or more bike paths. The other 20% are much more difficult to modify and include such examples as picking up heavy home improvement items and taking elderly relatives shopping or to the doctor (47). One of our goals in the course was to move students well into the 40% of soft changes they could make immediately, while we hoped that they would work on the remaining 60% as they voted, chose career paths and housing options, and became the citizens in our democracy.
Although we did not reach our goal of having students actually implement all of the soft changes that they could, they did learn to scrutinize the pluses and minuses of transportation choices on a broad scale, examining the effects on other people, ecosystems, and future generations. Two students said they were trying to sell their cars as a result of what they learned in the course. Several students worked much harder to arrange carpools for visits with family in other parts of Arizona. Overall, students noted that their perceptions of transportation and its costs and benefits changed because of the class. The tools and the teaching methods used in this second adaptation of the sustainable living course are readily transferable to other contexts, and in fall 2008 we plan to address the sustainability of water.
Of or being the region between the high tide mark and the low tide mark.
in as Text: Exploring the Galapagos Islands
Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution" is a 1973 essay by the evolutionary biologist and Russian Orthodox Christian Theodosius Dobzhansky, criticising Young Earth creationism and espousing evolutionary creationism. .
Place as Text pedagogy was also applied in summer 2007 to a travel course geared toward U.S. secondary science teachers but also accepting undergraduate and graduate students in the sciences and honors. The focus of the course was marine ecology in the Galapagos Islands. This archipelago, located 1000 kilometers west of the South American continent and likely only discovered by humans in 1535, is best known for its role in Darwin's theory to explain evolution.
Darwin visited the Galapagos in 1835, landing on four of the islands. He observed tortoises, mockingbirds, finches, lizards, and plants, which were found nowhere else in the world, often resembled species found in western South America, and were slightly different between islands. After pondering his observations for twenty years and almost being scooped by Alfred Russell Wallace, Darwin published On the Origin of Species in 1859, laying out his observations and rationale for natural selection.
More recently, three sizable towns have sprung up on the islands, growing mostly in the last 30 years since regular airline flights began. Our course was based in the capital on San Cristobal, population less than 10,000. Although the town started as a fishing village in the early 1900s, its economy is now driven by tourism, a navy base, and bureaucratic infrastructure. The Ecuadorian government is attempting to limit immigration to the Galapagos from the mainland because of the negative impact more and more people have on the island ecosystems that are the foundation for substantial tourism revenue. However, residents of the Galapagos have a higher per-capita income than on the mainland, and therefore immigration pressure is significant.
Our goals for this science course were manyfold man·y·fold
By many times: The state's population has increased manyfold. . We wanted our enrolled U.S. participants to revel in the extraordinary oceanography, marine ecology, geology, and terrestrial ecology that are so evident in this archipelago. We also expected our participants to grasp most of the content and many of the details of this incredible, yet rather simplified ecosystem as well as to learn research and teaching methodology that they could then apply in other places less exotic than the Galapagos. Finally, we wanted to share our enthusiasm, as well as our English, with the local school children--a mixture of native Galapaguenos and recent Ecuadorian immigrants, military and non-military--at the naval school in town. The result was a fantastic month of exploration, study, research, teaching, sharing, and learning, many components of which drew upon Place as Text teaching methodology.
For example, each participant arrived as the course expert on one species of interest (chosen from a list provided by the instructors at the pre-trip meeting one month before departing the U.S.) such as the endemic penguin, the finches, the Scalesia plant radiation, and the sea lion. At dinner each night, two participants shared interesting information about their species with the group. Our field explorations, cultural interactions, and journal writing also drew upon Place as Text. To involve and learn from a cross section of the community, we convened a professional panel consisting of a longtime local fisherman, the head of a women's handicraft handicraft: see arts and crafts. cooperative, and a former member of the politically appointed Galapagos planning commission. These individuals shared their views on conservation, development, and tourism issues and fielded our questions during a lively evening discussion.
To teach our participants, half of whom are or will be K-12 teachers, about Place as Text, we linked our initial examination of the intertidal with explicit Place as Text practice. Our twelve participants were divided into three groups: rocky intertidal, mangrove intertidal, and sandy intertidal. Walking, crawling, and snorkeling, participants mapped, observed, and explored these three different ecosystems and where they interacted and overlapped. Each group described biotic biotic /bi·ot·ic/ (bi-ot´ik)
1. pertaining to life or living matter.
2. pertaining to the biota.
1. Relating to life or living organisms. and abiotic components of each intertidal type, human interactions with each type, and the differences observed along a gradient from the high intertidal to the low intertidal. Thus when we convened as a larger group, we had a rich understanding of the challenges and innovations evident in the intertidal, the important role of the intertidal in terrestrial ecosystems, and the influence of biotic and abiotic factors in determining ecosystem structure and function. Using a simple key to the phyla phy·la
Plural of phylum. , participants also categorized the organisms in their area of intertidal and compared that measure of biodiversity with the other intertidal types.
Perhaps most importantly, we shared our exploration and knowledge of the intertidal with local children from the navy school. (See the photo at the beginning of this chapter.) Our participants were now responsible for guiding children--many of whom were new to the habitat type either because they had recently moved to the Galapagos or because they came from a family that did not explore the local ecosystems--through an exploration of the wonders to be found in the intertidal. Participants talked to these students about competition, predation predation
Form of food getting in which one animal, the predator, eats an animal of another species, the prey, immediately after killing it or, in some cases, while it is still alive. Most predators are generalists; they eat a variety of prey species. , desiccation des·ic·ca·tion
The process of being desiccated.
desic·ca , light, heat: the components that determine the distribution and abundance of organisms (i.e., ecology). With an increased appreciation for the organisms that inhabit the coasts and the processes that determine what lives where, these young Galapagos residents will, we hope, continue efforts to preserve and protect this remarkably pristine set of islands.
If conserved, this enchanting archipelago will continue to share lessons in biology and evolution with future generations. During the course of the month, our participants not only learned about oceanography, marine ecology, and the intertidal of the Galapagos, and how to explain complicated scientific information to younger students, but they also gained familiarity with a new teaching methodology applicable to their subject area and student population back in the U.S., or wherever they venture next.
Although honors has a reputation for not being well represented in the biological sciences, I have already taken my experiences from the NCHC Faculty Institute and applied them to three different aspects of my teaching. Feedback from my students reaffirms that Place as Text methods do a better job of engaging interest, stimulating participation, conveying concepts and information, and engendering true understanding than many traditional classroom teaching styles. I hope that these examples will inspire other professors to pursue novel and innovative approaches to combining honors and science education.
Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. 1859. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of : Penguin Classics, 1985.
Dobzhansky, Theodosius. "Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution." The American Biology Teacher 35 (March 1973): 125-129.
Graham, Devon & Peter Machonis, eds. "Miami and the Everglades: Built and Endangered Environments." National Collegiate Honors Council Faculty Institute. Miami: FIU FIU Florida International University
FIU Financial Intelligence Unit
FIU Fingerprint Identification Unit (Sony)
FIU Fire Investigation Unit
FIU Fraud Investigation Unit (UK)
FIU Facsimile Interface Unit , 2006.
Lancaster, Brad. Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1: Guiding Principles to Welcome Rain Into Your Life and Landscape. Tucson: Rainsource Press, 2006.
Mowbray, A. Q. Road to Ruin. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1968.
n. 1. (Zool.) A lake whitefish (Coregonus pollan), native of Ireland. In appearance it resembles a herring. , Michael. The Omnivore's Dilemma: a Natural History of Four Meals. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Sloman, Lynn. Car Sick: Solutions for our Car-addicted Culture. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green, 2006.
KEVIN E. BONINE
UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA (body, education) University of Arizona - The University was founded in 1885 as a Land Grant institution with a three-fold mission of teaching, research and public service.
Endnote See footnote.
(1) This was the first time we used poetry as a medium for student feedback in the sustainable living colloquium, which added to the interdisciplinary aspect of the science-based curriculum. Student feedback was both personal and general, as can be seen in the following samples:
Untitled In our quest for progress We've hurt more, gained less. Time to hop on our cycles And begin to backpedal. Out of necessity, To a time of simplicity. As the need to compete depletes, The need to survive thrives. In our quest to regress We gain more, hurt less. --Becky Burton 2007 (enrolled student) Untitled I'd like to ask you a patriotic question About ... current affairs ... the state of our nation. Our obsession with material possessions And the death of a right ... due to trepidation? What's become of our rights, of our once-great nation? Oh, I wish I could answer that question But I, consumed with doubt, brainwashed by corporations Like most of my generation Sit idly by helplessly watching our inheritance bleed dry Led to believe that one person is powerless That it takes a million to stand and to deny The custom and achieve measurable success. A million starts with someone. It could be you; or me. Throw off the chains of apathy. Be free. --Jason Town 2007 (enrolled student)