Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Non-majors course update

Have now lectured twice to the non-majors course: once on what science is and once on very basic chemistry. My feeling is that the lecture went pretty OK the first day, but I didn't have any activities for them to do, it was a straight lecture with PowerPoints. I did tell stories and give examples that weren't in the book (the book is chock full of "applications"). I'm guessing from their faces that it was a little above average, perhaps better than they were expecting.

I had lab on Tuesday; two sections. The first section (20 students) were relaxed, when broken into groups had lively conversations. They came up with some great personal examples for positive and negative correlations (age vs wisdom; one would hope--or-- Time on Facebook vs GPA). it seemed almost fun. Then the second section came. There were 9 students. They did not talk back to me during the intro, and when made into groups, one group had a "leader" that got them going, albeit forcedly so, and the other group, DID NOT MAKE EYE CONTACT with each other, they sat during the entire 3-4 minutes of discussion time with their eyes on their paper, some doodling, and even with gentle prompting from me, still refused to speak to each other. WOW!

But then there was lecture today. Half of the 29 students had already covered basic chemistry in another course and of those, a show of hands showed that many remember hating it. So I went slowly, boring the tears out of the approx 6-7 that had a good solid chemistry background.

I like to show a video of the gamma knife procedure (Pittsburgh has a good one) to explain isotopes. And I used brickle blocks to have them build covalent bonds; the *brickle blocks "share" little tines to form a bond. You can even make them Mickey-mouse like to show polarity of water, that water has a sidedness.

I thought it went pretty OK, a little more above average. I was worried about boring the advanced students. I was really looking forward to macromolecules, for which I have great toys.

Then I got this e-mail:

Where would you like us to submit our write ups for the lab? I looked and could
not find a place to submit it at.

Thank you,
Student :)

PS. Class was great today!

And now I feel like a million bucks.

*brickle blocks? A quick search of the internet shows that this is NOT the name of these things. I don't know what they are really called. They are shapes of plastic covered all over with soft tines. They connect with each other by interlocking their respective tines.


  1. Great to hear that it is going well!

    How big is this class? Is it only the 29 students or are there other lab sections? I have 130 in my non-majors course this semester, which is down from my normal 200 (schedule/room issues). It creates even more issues of course so I was curious as this discussion continues as to the size of the classes everyone is teaching.

    Your positive/negative correlation discussion is something we do too, and lately we have been doing gallery walks using examples from Indexed to get discussion going and then have them create their own "comics". Not all of the comics are appropriate, so you have to pick some and print them out.

  2. Bristle Blocks! Well, of course that makes sense. Thanks, Abby.

    It really is only 29 students. We truly are a small school (approx 800 undergrads.) Indexed is great! Thanks.

  3. I took a non-majors in Science1 last spring as a senior in Science2. My little group of seniors in Science2 had an an amazing time, even though we were way beyond the level of the class. We weren't bored, but got a kick about already knowing most of the material. And our professor was lively and funny which made the 8am business tolerable.

    You're going to do a great job (as evidenced by your reviews!) I look forward to hearing how it progresses.

  4. I hate being in groups that refuse to talk/look at each other. I always try to initiate things, and it makes me feel old.

  5. SHOES! Yes, this is almost totally random, but you posted about some sweet-looking Fleuvog shoes a while back. They are now on sale, so you could totally justify getting them for yourself if you haven't already: