Science 143 Syllabis

Course Title: SCI 143 Our Home/Our Habitat (a Science 2000 course)

Term:Spring 2000 (February 28 – April 26)   Lecture : TTH 11:00 – 12:30 p.m. Lab: TH 2 – 4 p.m.

Instructor:  Dr. Carolyn L. Thomas

Office: Garber Hall 225

Phone: 365-4368


Office Hours:  MWF 11-12 p.m.; MTTH 1 – 2 p.m.; WF 2 – 3 p.m.

Description: This course covers topics related to human homes and natural habitats, especially how interactions among organisms in ecosystems affect humans and vice versa.  The basic needs of living things will be studied through the scientific eye and also through the perspective of the Appalachian culture.  Home as a theme or motif in the arts and humanities, especially in literature, will be compared to the study of habitats and niches in science, especially in ecosystems.  The literary readings will be used to illustrate how nature and the environment are depicted in Appalachian literature, and to explore other parallels between science and the humanities.  Specific areas of study will include use of water, food, and shelter in ecosystems; human homes and architecture; land use and competition among populations for habitats; the treatment of these topics in literature and art; cycling of materials in ecosystems and recurring motifs in literature.

Why Take this Class? Environmental science and the study of ecosystems of this world and their potential demise have long been an area of concern for scientists as well as the general public.  Relating the details of science and the study of ecology to each person’s personal experience seems difficult for many people, but it is important for each of us to consider the connections between the environment and other areas of our lives.  This course enables students to relate the characteristics of structure and function of ecosystems to subjects they may be more familiar with already, including Appalachian literature, art, music, history, political science, religion and other areas of the humanities and the arts.  The information and ideas in this course will prepare the students to become better informed citizens in environmental affairs and to help teach others about the earth and its inhabitants from a scientific and humanitarian point of view.


1. Why Big Fierce Animals are Rare: An Ecologist’s Perspective (1978) by Paul Colinvaux (required purchase)

2. Photocopies of lab exercises and additional readings: (required purchase: $5.00)

3. Some readings will be placed on reserve in the library


Spring 2000

Class and Lab Meeting Times: Tuesday & Thursday 11-12:15 – Lecture and Discussion, Garber 208; Thursday, 2-4 PM – Lab meeting time, Garber 208

Absences and Lateness:  Please do not be late or absent from class or lab.  If you are late or absent from class or lab more than 1 time your final grade may be reduced a letter grade.  This class only meets for eight weeks, so absences are very detrimental.  Ferrum College policy mandates that anyone who misses one-fourth of the class meetings automatically fails the course.  (See college catalog, p. 37.)

Grade Evaluation:  There will be one cumulative final exam which will include objective and essay questions and a practical application portion.  There will also be a course project that requires integrating ecological principles and some area of the Appalachian Culture in the humanities or arts, using any appropriate format or media, such as essays, teaching units, posters, videos, or creative artwork.  An oral presentation of this project to the class and instructor will be required.  A journal must be kept recording class and lab activities, results, and responses to activities and readings.  (More detailed requirements for the project, the journal, and essays are described in additional handouts.)

Final grades will be determined according to the following percentages:
Assignment % of grade
Class Project 25%
Oral Presentation  10%
Two Essays 20%
Class Journal 20%
Final Exam 20%
Class Participation 5%

Grading Scale:  A = 90-100%; B = 80-89%; C = 70-79%; D = 60-69%; F = 0-59%

Tobacco:  There will be no tobacco products in the classroom or lab at any time, including cigarettes, chewing tobacco or any other tobacco product.

Honor Code:  I expect absolute honesty and will not tolerate cheating, plagiarism (including copying of others’ work and inadequate documentation of sources used), lying, or disrespect for the other students or the instructor.  You are responsible for reading and understanding the Ferrum College Honor Policy.  Any violations will be presented before the Honor Board or Campus Judicial Board.

Labs:  You must attend all labs and must have read the lab assignment before class.  The journal and essay assignments will require you to record activities and impressions from each lab exercise.  The labs will be informal; however, lab meetings will be very busy with many requirements which will take up the two hours, so take care to budget your time in order to complete weekly assignments. 

Lecture/Discussion Schedule


Col = Colinvaux, Why Big Fierce Animals are Rare (main text)

Additional readings will be on handouts and library reserve, including excerpts from Melissa Walker, ed. Reading the Environment (1994) and Normal Myers, GAIA (1984).





Readings, Assignments

1. Feb. 29   9:30 – 4:00 p.m. Project Wild Quiz “Where You At?”

Mar 3


Introduction to natural habitats & human homes
Fill out Survey “How Big is your Footprint?”
Intro. To literary views of the earth & resources



Mar 4–12


Spring Break



Mar 13-17


Basic needs of living things
Water: resource needs & uses, quality of water populations, individuals & water use
**Paper #1 DUE**
Essays & poems on habitats and homes
**Field trip to Matewan: Pocahontas**

Col: Chaps. 1, 3, 8
Myers: 108-9; 76-77, 134-5
Walker: Snyder: 71-4, 89-91;
Rich: 98-9
Mazer: The Salamander Room (on reserve)



Mar 20-24


Food:  Nonliving basis of life, soil and soil fertility
Compare natural & agricultural
Media coverage of individual, societal, and global perspectives on earth’s resources

Col: Chaps. 3, 7, 9
Myers: 24-25, 34-35
Walker: Zuckerman 7-8; Cody 8 – 11; Mathews 11



Mar 27-31


Food: sustainability of plants & animals, esp.
humans, carrying capacity of the biosphere
Poems and myths about earth’s resources,
Native American corn mother myth
** Paper #2 Due**

Col: Chaps. 4, 5, 6
Writings by Awiakta (handout)
Myers: 38-39, 64-67, 190-191
Walker: Postal: 296-301



Apr 3-7


Shelter:  resource competition, preservation of
nature vs. preservation of humans,
wilderness & species removal;
Architecture, natural and synthetic
** Field Trip to Dante & Mt. Rogers**

Col: chap. 14, 15
Walker: McPhee: 280-85;
Berry: 325-29
Dillard: 63-66, 92-98
Lopez: 67-71
Oliver: 257-259



Apr 10-14


Shelter: What is civilization?
Interaction of human and natural communities
Fiction on human and natural habitats
Our habitat: niche and habitat
**Project DUE**
**Earth Day Activities**

Col: Chaps. 16, 17
Walker: Greenpeace: 301-304;
Vogelberg: 304-306;
Kaufman: 306-316;
Leopold: 49-51;
Hardin: 502-517;
Gore: 468-478



Apr 17-25


Our habitat: niche and habitat
Symbiotic relationships (parasitic, mutual, commuensal, competition)
Review for final exam
**Paper #3 DUE**

Col: Chaps. 2, 18


Apr 28


FINAL EXAM – 10:30-12:30

- all readings -

Lab Schedule

Course: SCI 143  Our Home/Our Habitat

Instructor: Dr. Carolyn L. Thomas

Lab meeting time: Thursday, 2-4 p.m. in Garber 208




Either of these exercises count as LAB #1    

Feb. 29

Project Wild 9:30 – 4:00 p.m.

March 2 Lab and computer work researching local and world needs for water & other resources.
March 9

Spring Break

Mar 16-17

Field Trip to Matewan and Pocahontas (stream monitoring, coal mine)
Lab #2

March 23

Evaluating soil characteristics, planting seeds and seedlings and working with the soil (in greenhouse).  Each student adopts a plant or crop.  “Fast Plants.”
Lab #3

March 30

Answer survey #2 “How Big is your Footprint?”
Field Trip to Seven Spring organic farm with presentation by owners about history of the land, their use of ecological principles & their plan for sustainability. 
Lab #4

April 6-8

Observe vernacular architecture (built with function in mind), Compare to animal homes observed
Field Trip  to Dante,  Mount Rogers, and Dungannon. 
Lab #5

April 13

Presentations of student projects showing the basic needs of life in our habitat, integrating ecological principles and the arts or humanities
Answer survey #3 “How Big is your Footprint?”
Evaluate homework quiz “Where You At?”

April 14

Earth Day @ Ferrum – Environmental Education Activities for Elementary School Students and Ferrum College Students. (9:00 – 2:30 p.m.)




Work with computer program Sim City 2000 and design a city of the future.  Lab #6


FINAL EXAM: 10:30-12:30

NOTE:  Reports on six labs must be written by the end of the semester, following the required lab format outlined in the journal handout.  Please make a note in the journal if you submitted your report of Lab #3 as a formal paper instead of including it in the journal.

See other handouts for other due dates and instructions on journals and papers.

Science 143:  Our Home/Our Habitat

Writing Assignments: Choose two of the following assignments (20% of course grade).  If you choose to write three papers, the grade will be averaged together. These essays and the project report must be typed and written in standard edited American English.  They should demonstrate mastery of basic skills as outlined in the Ferrum Foundation Standards.  If you need help with writing skills, see Dr. Crow or Dr. Horn in the Composition Center.

1.  Write a newspaper article or letter to the editor referring to a recent newspaper article about an environmental issue.  Pick an issue, research the information in the library or on the Internet, and interview experts or the general public as necessary to write a well-reasoned and evidence-supported article to summarize the issue or discuss one important aspect of the environmental issue.

(approximately 1 – 2 double-spaced pages.)

Due: March 13, by 5:00 a.m.

Leave in Dr. Thomas’ mailbox in Garber

2. Write a Lab Report on Lab #3 on soil and plants, following the guidelines listed for lab reports in the Journal Handout.  Please be detailed and thorough in explaining the lab.

Due: March 30, by 2:00 p.m.

3. Write an analysis of a novel, essay, picture book, or poem that could be read or used in connection with learning about the environment of homes and habitats.  Summarize the book very briefly and explain the knowledge and insights gained by the reader.  Evaluate the scientific accuracy and learning potential of the book.  Our in-class examination of picture books, and poems should give you ideas for patterns and themes to analyze in various stories, poems, and illustrations. 

(approximately 1-2 typed double-spaced pages)

Due: Any time, but no later than April 25 at 5:00 p.m.

Leave in Dr. Thomas’ mailbox in Garber Hall