Objectives and Philosophy:
Most university classes are designed to transmit a block of
information and to assess how much of it students picked up.
The colloquium for Earth, Life, and Time is meant to be
different. Here, our goals are:
Because our primary aim is as much to foster an appreciation
of historical natural sciences as to tramsmit a body of
knowledge, the colloquium is graded primarily on the basis of
participation in class discussions and projects. The exact
lineup of colloquium activities depends on students'
background and prior knowledge.
- To provide an opportunity for you to integrate the
information you are receiving in other courses.
- To reinforce natural science topics that are especially
- To give you a direct window into the way natural
scientists think by fostering collaborative and mentoring
relationships with faculty and researchers outside the
Each semester of the Earth, Life & Time program forms one coherent whole that also contributes to a three semester long exploration on the methods and perspectives of natural historical sciences and their interaction with human society.
- In semester 1 students concentrate the methods of science in general, and natural historical sciences (historical geology and evolutionary biology) in particular. Readings include pieces from Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World and John McPhee's Annals of a Former World. Field trips include observing modern depositional environments (Jug Bay Wetlands Sancturary) and fossil collecting at Chesapeake Beach and in western Maryland.
- Semester 2 focuses on the perspectives afforded by our understanding of the history of the natural world, and of Humanity's place within it. Readings include Richard Fortey's Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth and Jared Diamond's The Third Chimpanzee. Field trips include an examination of exhibits and exhibit design at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History (Washington, D.C.), the American Museum of Natural History (NYC), and the Metropolitan Museum of Art(NYC), and fossil collecting in West Virginia.
- Semester 3 explores the interactions of natural history and Humanity, including the influence of the natural world in shaping ancient and modern cultures. The impact of human technologies (ancient and modern) on the living and non-living world, and the influence of our understanding (and often misunderstanding) of Science upon contemporary society. Readings include Jared Diamonds's Guns, Germs, and Steel and Robert Park's Voodoo Science. Field trips include the National Zoological Gardens and other sites of scientific-societal interface. Also during this semester, students will organize their independent practicum projects to be completed during their fourth semester.
Syllabi by semester: