"Awful Changes": The Reality of Environmental Crises & the Nature of Science
CCC1100 Tue 3:30-4:50
Course Syllabus Website
Course Policies Website
Course Schedule Website
Download an pdf file of this syllabus.
Dr. Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
Office: Centreville 1216
Office Hours: Tue 9-11 am or by appointment
Dr. John W. Merck, Jr.
Office: Centreville 1218
Office Hours: Thurs 12-2 pm (GEO 1119) or by appointment
[Title your email "CPSG 100"]
Office: Centreville 1215
Office Hours: Tues 2-3 pm
[Title your email "CPSG 100"]
Office: Centreville 1215
Office Hours: Tues 2-3 pm
NOTE: It is your responsibility as a student to completely read through and understand this syllabus. If you have questions about it, please contact Dr. Holtz or Dr. Merck. You will be held responsible for following all requirements of this syllabus.
COURSE ORGANIZATION: One meeting per week, one Service Day (required), one Metro Scavenger Hunt (required), weekend field trips (one required).
REQUIRED READINGS: This semester there are two required texts:
- Kida, Thomas. 2006. Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking. Prometheus Books. ISBN-13 978-159102408-8
- Kolbert, Elizabeth. 2014. The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. Picador. ISBN-13 978-1-250-06218-5
Additional required readings and videos are listed and linked on the ELMS Canvas site. Reading assignments must be done by the class time listed.
Copyright: © 2017 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. and John W. Merck, Jr. as to this syllabus and all lectures. Students are prohibited from copying and selling course materials, from selling lecture notes, and from being paid to take lecture notes without the express written permission of the faculty teaching this course.
COURSE OBJECTIVES AND PHILOSOPHY: Students will be introduced to the methods and empirical worldview of Science, and the practices of the scientific endeavor. They will learn to distinguish between scientific and non-scientific/pseudoscientific approaches to the world around them. Then, they will examine how scientists have used the geologic and historic records to discover the fact that the Earth's environments undergoes changes through time, and that these changes are sometimes so profound and abrupt that they result in crises for the world's inhabitants. This ancient record of global change serves as a backdrop to addressing modern changes, so that understanding the past is key to understanding the present and future.
LEARNING OUTCOMES: By the end of the semester, every student should be able to:
- Accurately employ understanding of logical fallacies and critical thinking skills in evaluating truth claims.
- Effectively distinguish between scientific and non-scientific approaches to the understanding of the natural world.
- Identify how environmental changes of the past affected the inhabitants of the planet.
- Write webpages using html code, upload them to a University server, and maintain their personal website.
GRADES: The numbers given represent the thresholds that must be passed in order to reach that grade (for example, A+ is 97.000... and any number greater). There is no rounding for letter grades; the thresholds must be passed. F is any grade below D-. Thresholds: 97, A+; 93, A; 90, A-; 87, B+; 83, B; 80, B-; 77, C+; 73, C; 70, C-; 67, D+; 63, D; 60, D-; < 60, F.
The Final Grade is the algebraic sum based on the numerical grades.
Service Day and Metro Scavenger Hunt are given either full points (for completion of the assigned project) or none (for non-completion or disruptive activity). Each general quiz is graded on a 8 point scale (one per correct answer). Other projects are assigned grades based on the following grade scale:
- Pre-Course Knowledge Survey (5%): In order to assess the effectiveness of the Science & Global Change program in teaching concepts related to our key themes, we survey the incoming cohort to see their pre-existing knowledge about climate change issues. This will be done online on ELMS during the first week of classes. Our goal is to see what you already know; thus, there is every expectation you will score poorly on it. DO NOT PANIC! Your grade for this is based on participation, not on your answers.
- General Quizzes (15%): Six quizzes are given throughout the semester. The lowest quiz grade is automatically dropped: this includes quizzes missed for unexcused absences. Quizzes missed due to unexcused absences cannot be made up.
- Final Quiz (10%): A longer quiz, held on the last day of class. This will cover all the material of the semester, and even draw on concepts earlier in the SGC program.
- Participation (25%): A critical part of understanding concepts is their discussion and application. During every colloquium meeting, there will be small and class-wide discussions of the readings due that week (or material from the course so far). And in many meetings, there will be organized projects and activities that you will work on as small teams, larger groups, and/or the class as a whole. Every student is expected to fully participate in class every meeting: this earns you the full 5 pts for that meeting. The faculty and TAs may (at their own discretion) award up to 2 more points as extra credit for particularly helpful or effective participation in the discussion for individual students that day. Students who are present but are non-participants or are disruptive may be docked up to 2 and 4 points (respectively) at the faculty/TA's discretion.
Your lowest individual grade for participation is automatically dropped. This is the means by which a single absence from class will be dealt. If you miss more than a single class, however, your grade may be more heavily penalized: see the "Policies" page about excused vs. unexcused absences.
- Field Trip Report (5%): Each student is responsible for attending and reporting on one of the field trips available
during this semester. These reports will be entered on ELMS online. You may work by yourself or in teams up to 3 people, but you must enter your report individually. Additionally, you will also be responsible for posting a picture of yourself at the field trip site, appropriately captioned, on your SGC Academic Portfolio.
The group field trip opportunities this semester are:
- Sept. 17 (Sunday) Fossil hunting at Brownie Beach (Bayfront Park), Chesapeake Beach, MD
- Sept. 30 (Saturday) Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, Edgewater, MD
- Oct. 21 (Saturday) American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
- Nov. 12 (Sunday) Marian Koshland Science Museum of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
Alternatively, you may go on your own or in teams up to 3 people to complete self-guided field trips on your own time. Three pre-designed field trips are available; other options may be announced on a case-by-case basis. The three standard self-guided field trips are:
- National Museum of Natural History, Washington, DC
- National Air & Space Museum, Washington, D.C.
- National Zoological Gardens, Washington, D.C.
Or, as yet another alternative, you can go to a talk or presentation (on campus or off) related to the themes of the program and write a report (based on a set of questions provided). We will identify these throughout the semester as they are announced.
- Academic Portfolio (20%): Over the semester we will have
short workshops teaching the basics of HTML coding and website design. You will be responsible for creating a website to be mounted on a umd.edu server; successful completion of this project is worth 20% of the total course grade. You will be expected to maintain your website throughout your four semesters in SGC, and you will be adding new webpages to it over time. An html template for the Professional Academic Website is downloadable from the SGC website. The assignment itself can be found here, and a guide to more detailed html can be found here.
This portfolio has several subcomponents:
- Phase 1 (5%): Uploading an image (ideally, one of you) to be used on the portfolio to your web space. Due online October 3
- Phase 2 (10%):Basic html version of the portfolio uploaded. Due online October 24
- Phase 3 (5%): CSS-enhanced final version of the portfolio upload. Due online October 31
- Service Day (5%): All Scholars freshmen are required to participate in Service Day (August 25). If you missed Service Day, you MUST see the instructors and work out some arrangement for a make-up task or you will receive a 0 for this portion of your grade.
- Metro Scavenger Hunt (5%): This project is to help orient students to the Washington, D.C. area and the Metro System, as well as help you get to know other people in the class. You will be given randomly generated groups (see on ELMS) and a list of items to find and document on the first day of colloquium. You must turn in your materials (and upload your image via Canvas) by class time on September 12. The planned date for the Metro Scavenger Hunt this year is September 10 (Sunday).
- Anatomy of a Scientific Paper Takehome (5%): Due on October 19, each student will find an example of a recently-published scientific technical paper and "dissect" it, identifying its various subcomponents. Details about this assignment provided later in the semester.
- Scholars Theme "Viral" Report Assignment (5%): Every year, College Park Scholars sponsors an overall theme. The 2017-2018 theme is "Going Viral: The Spread of Illness, Imagery, and Information in the Modern World". Many different events (book discussions; presentations; films; activities; etc.) are planned in association with this theme. We require that every student take part in at least one of these. After you take part in it, you will write a brief report that you enter in ELMS.
A second "Viral" event might be used for your Field Trip assignment.
LATE ITEMS: Hardcopy items must be turned in on the class meeting they are due: make sure you bring them to class with you! If they are turned in after this time but prior to the next colloquium, there will be a grade reduction of one step (i.e., a plus to a check plus, a check plus to a check, etc.; this is a 10 point drop). If not turned in by the next colloquium the grade will be a 0.
Online items must be uploaded/posted by the date listed. We will typically check to see if they have been uploaded the week after they are due: if they are not present at this time, you will have a -15 point penalty and be sent a warning to get it uploaded within the week. If not present by the second week (i.e., within 1 week of the warning email), you will bet a 0 on the project. NOTE: If you first uploaded an incomplete version of a website, please re-upload the final version to ELMS, otherwise we won't see the final version in Canvas.
In either case if there are important extenuating circumstances, discuss this with the faculty & TA as early as possible so that we can make allowances, if we deem it appropriate.