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CSPS218G: Earth, Life, and Time Colloquium
Semester Three - Fall 2001
CCC1100 Mon, 3:30-5:00



One meeting per week, two weekend field trips.


In the first two semesters of the ELT colloquium, you were introduced to fundamental concepts in the natural sciences and exposed to a wide range of current research. Semester 3 has two main foci: understanding the critical issues of natural science in society today and preparation for your fourth semester practicum.

  • Fourth Semester Practicum Proposal: The practicum is the culmination of your experience in College Park Scholars. It is your chance to:
    Satisfy your curiosity about an area of particular interest in natural sciences.
    Developing personally through the planning and completion of a demanding project.
    Accomplishing an achievement that you can use to promote yourself to future employers, faculty advisors, and graduate schools.
    Practica may take the form of:
    Discovery projects
    Service-learning projects
    Internship projects


    There are several components, each of which contributes to your grade: Attendance (10%), Group Project (30%), Practicum proposal (30%), Quizzes (10%), Participation (10%), and Proof of Concept Assignment (10%).

    1) Attendance: (10%) Colloquium and field trip attendance is mandatory, and attendance will be taken. A default grade of A will be given for attendance. Each student may have one unexcused absence TOTAL from a class or field trip without penalty. After that, their attendance grade will be lowered by one letter grade with each additional unexcused absence. PLEASE NOTE:
    Students observed leaving the colloquium before 4:50 or before it is formally dismissed will be counted absent.
    If you have a legitimate reason for being absent, such as a family emergency or unavoidable academic conflict, we will excuse your absence, however you must notify us in a timely fashion. Requests for the excusing of an absence will not be considered after two days from the absence.

    2) Group Projects: (30%) This semester the group projects consist of two categories: three groups will be involved with developing the panel discussions for the class (on 10/15, 11/5 & 11/26); the rest will be involved in Media-Watch projects. These are summarized at the end of this syllabus. The projects will be graded by the directors based on content and quality of html and colloquium presentation. All projects are due on the dates of their classroom presentation. A letter grade will be deducted for each day that the assignment is late.

    3) Practicum Proposals: (30%) Your practicum should address a topic of particular interest to you and relevance to your career goals, however it should also address the historical natural sciences. Although our program focuses on the sciences of Geology, Paleontology, and Evolutionary Biology, we are will interpret "historical natural sciences" broadly for the purpose of the practicum. Nevertheless, the ELT instructors reserve the right to veto your practicum proposal at the preliminary or draft stages if we consider its topic or focus inappropriate.

    Preparations for the practicum must begin early and will proceed in stages. Your practicum proposal is due on 11/19, and the final signature sheet provided to us by 12/10. Your overall proposal grade will be lowered by one letter grade for each day that they are late. Your final proposal will be graded on its completeness. Additional information on parctica is available at our web site.

    4) Quizzes: (10%) Your mastery of presented material will hopefully be rewarded by good scores on three short quizzes that will be administered during the semester. We will automatically drop the lowest score.

    5) Participation: (10%) All students are expected to be active participants in the colloquium. Students are expected to have read the week's assignments (if any) and to be prepared to discuss them. The default grade for this section is a B; students who fail to be active participants in the discussions in colloquium will be downgraded, while those who actively and positively contribute their ideas, observations, and thoughts in the discussions will be assigned an A.

    6) Proof of Concept: (10%) This semester we have a single Proof of Concept assignment: a project using Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. The techniques you will use here will also prove extremely useful in creating your practicum posters in the Spring Semester, and hopefully in other classes and work situations as well.


    Because many of our communications will be by e-mail, and several assignments involve the Worldwide Web, all students are expected to maintain e-mail accounts and arrange for access to the Internet. Although not a course requirement per se, students should get into the habit of checking their e-mail daily. Failure to do so may cause you to miss crucial course information.


    Although you are encouraged to discuss assignments with your colleagues and work together, work submitted under your name must be exclusively your own. Evidence of dishonesty, cheating, fabrication, facilitating academic dishonesty, or plagiarism on even one assignment, be it required or extra credit, will be forwarded to the Honor Council for review. This applies to extra credit assignments as well. (See pp. pp 43-46 of the UMCP 2001/2002 Undergraduate Catalog or online at Have a nice day.


    9/10 Program: Welcome, introduction; Logical Fallacies Reprise

    9/17 Program: A practical introduction to the Practicum.
    Guest Speakers: John Cordes, Lacretia Johnson

    9/24 Program: Energy resources;
    Travel Log: Arizona & the Galapagos

    10/1 Program: WORKSHOP: Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator

    10/8 Program: The Reality of Climate Change

    10/15 Program: Panel 1 Discussion: Energy Resources and Waste;
    Practicum Guest Speaker: Kevin Baxter

    Quiz I

    10/22 Program: Extinctions: Past, Present & Future

    Field Trip (10/27): U.S. National Zoo

    10/29 Program: The Value of Biodiversity
    Due: Adobe proof of concept assignment

    11/5 Program: Panel 2 Discussion: Conservation Issues;
    Practicum troubleshooting
    Quiz II

    11/12 Program: The Origins of Human Biological & Linguistic Diversity
    Field Trip (11/18): TBA

    11/19 Program: Pseudoscience & Mad Scientists
    Due: Practicum Proposal due

    11/26 Program: Panel 3 Discussion: K-12 Science Education
    Quiz III

    12/3 Program: Student Presentations I

    12/10 Program: Student Presentations II

    Final Due: Practicum signature sheet

    Earth, Life, and Time Sophomore Group Projects:

    Each student in ELT will be a member of a group project. Below are summarizes of the different projects; more detailed requirements and helpful information will be handed out to each group early in the semester.

    PANEL DISCUSSIONS: This semester we will have three big in-class discussions on topics relating to the interaction of natural sciences and society. In each case the panel organizers are responsible for investigating the key information and (taking on the roles of different advocacy groups) presenting the information to the class as whole (who will represent some particular community). The panelists will be required to present their topics fairly and accurately. Discussions about the topics (with a focus on factors involved in our decision making) will follow the presentations. The three panels are:

      Energy Resources: (10/15) The class as a whole represents the Bluefoot Tribal Council, which is debating how to spend an imaginary monetary windfall on modern energy resources. Choices include: sticking with the current coal-buring plant or constructing new nuclear, hydroelectric, wind, or solar generation facilities.

      Conservation: (11/5) Wolves (Canis lupus) and Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) were the dominant natural predators of the American West until they were exterminated in that region in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The State Legislature of Idaho (the class as a whole) is debating the reintroduction of populations of these large predatory mammals. The panelists represent various concerns: environmentalists; wildlife managers; farmers & ranchers; developers; and tourism officials.

      Borderland Science in K-12 Education: (11/26) How do we decide what goes into primary and secondary school classrooms? The class (the Board of Education) will here testimonies from people (the panelists) proposing to include several different fields potentially outside the mainstream of science, advocating the inclusion of their particular field in the school curriculum.

    MEDIA-WATCH PROJECTS: LOGICAL FALLACIES IN THE MEDIA: The remaining eight groups will examine the use of logical fallacies in various media. Each group will investigate a particular fallacy, and keep an eye and ear out for its use in public. Yes, this means that (ultimately) you will be getting a grade for reading newspapers, surfing the web (judiciously), watching advertisements, and so forth: but all with a critical mind!

    The results of each of the eight groups will be reported as class presentations at the end of the semester, and on a web page. Each web page (one per fallacy) must include at least five different particular uses of that fallacy, with a quotation and reference for that fallacious statement; recognition of why the statement is an example of the fallacy in question; question whether the argument could have been made in a non-fallacious way (and if so, how); and a warning of how the reader can screen for other uses of this fallacy.

    Groups may investigate ANY material in any medium that claims to be true (thus conscious fiction is off limits, but the news (print or electronic), advertisement, non-fiction print, documentaries, etc. are all fair game). NOTE: although the World Weekly News and related tabloids maintain the premise that they are news magazines, we all recognize that their text is fiction, so they are off-limits for this purpose! Except for web material published by news services or web versions of newspapers and magazines, each group may cite ONLY one web site as the source of a fallacy.