The Chemistry of Daily Life: Malnutrition & Diabetes

Matthew Fisher
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Chemistry
Saint Vincent College
300 Fraser Purchase Road
Latrobe, PA 15650
724-805-2356 office
724-537-4554 fax
matt.fisher@email.stvincent.edu
Saint Vincent College Faculty Webpages

Abstract

This laboratory course for non-majors has been taught since 1998 and explores basic concepts in chemistry through two related issues of growing national and international importance – malnutrition and diabetes. Nationally, 36.3 million people-including 13 million children-live in households that experienced hunger or risk of hunger. Food insecurity rates are 22.1 % for African-American and 22.3 % for Hispanic households; double the national average. Globally, 852 million people across the world were hungry in 2004, up from 842 million the year before.

The other extreme of malnutrition is obesity. Globally, more than 1 billion adults are overweight and more than 300 million adults are clinically obese, a 3-fold increase since 1980. Among the many risks associated with obesity is the development of type II diabetes. More than 177 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, with that number expected to more than double by 2030. Understanding these two extremes of malnutrition requires a grasp of both the chemistry of the human body as well as the chemistry involved in food, nutrition, and drugs.

The course naturally divides into two “halves”. The first half focuses on helping students develop a degree of comfort with the “language” of chemistry through a combination of lectures and in-class worksheets where students learn and use chemical concepts. Wherever possible, examples used in lectures and laboratories come from every day life. For example, the lab on stoichiometry and balancing chemical equations uses the analysis of sodium in chicken broth as its focus and acid-base chemistry is done in the context of evaluating the cost effectiveness of various antacids. In the second half of the course, the same mix of lectures, labs, worksheets, and informal group work are used to demonstrate how chemistry enables us to describe and analyze how the body uses various classes of molecules (fats, carbohydrates, proteins) for energy and how the body regulates these metabolic pathways.

The course also examines:

  • the relationship between protein structure and function with particular emphasis on enzymes and hormone receptors
  • the structure of DNA and the technologies involved in genetic testing
  • micronutrients and the consequences of micronutrient deficiencies
  • toxicity and exposure in the context of risk assessment
  • how drugs work and how new drugs are developed

The course uses a number of teaching strategies, including group projects, “Just-In-Time” Teaching (JiTT), and experiential or community-based learning. In JiTT, which was added to the course in Spring 2004, students respond electronically to carefully constructed web-based assignments which are due shortly before class, and the instructor reads the student submissions ‘just-in-time’ to adjust the classroom lesson to suit the students’ needs. This provides continuous assessment and a “feedback loop” that maximizes learning and comprehension. Collaborative learning is fostered in a final group project and presentation that takes the place of a final exam.

The course continues to evolve and in the Spring 2005 semester a “personal project” was added. The choice of project was discretionary and some students elected to help the Campus Ministry with the Oxfam Fast for a World Harvest, or with a monthly feeding of homeless individuals in downtown. Others worked with the campus Wellness Center on an educational activity related to diabetes or obesity. Students were asked to keep a log of the time they spent on the activity and to write a paper reflecting on ways that their activity helped them understand the connection between the chemistry concepts they learned and the civic and social contexts in which that chemistry exists.

What are the Course’s Learning Goals?

The course has several learning objectives:

  • to use the chemistry of macronutrients and micronutrients to make informed decisions on questions of nutrition and diet;
  • to make informed decisions about drug usage based on chemical models for drug action and how drug safety and efficacy are evaluated;
  • to evaluate the relationship between chemical concepts relevant to particular issues such as nutrition and drug usage and other relevant perspectives (economic,ethical);
  • to develop students’ abilities to assess risks and benefits as part of making a reasoned decision regarding issues involving science and technology

As a course that partially fulfills the natural sciences requirement of the Saint Vincent College Core Curriculum, this course aims to fulfill the following goals of the Core Curriculum:

“To promote understanding of the natural sciences”

Scientific literacy is demonstrated when a person can

  • describe the nature of scientific knowledge, use the scientific method, and comprehend, present and critique scientific work;
  • explain the most fundamental observations and models developed in the process of scientific inquiry;
  • evaluate the impact science has had on the human condition.

“To form habits of ordered inquiry, logical thinking, and critical analysis”

  • analyze the reasons leading to specific ideas;
  • evaluate the views of others based on appropriate evidence;
  • use directly collected data or data given to construct knowledge by organizing (synthesizing, sequencing, or interpreting) the new information with previous background;
  • critically review habitual assumptions in order to accommodate existing beliefs and assimilate new knowledge

Course Goals

This course is designed to help achieve the goals for understanding the process of science developed by natural sciences faculty at Saint Vincent College. These goals include:

1. Students should be able to describe the nature of scientific knowledge. To demonstrate this, students should be able to give an example to illustrate the following characteristics of scientific knowledge:

a. It is drawn from evidence gathered through experimentation.
b. It enables one to make testable predictions.
c. It is probabilistic and is an estimate of the truth.
d. It is tentative and changes as new evidence is unveiled.

2. Students should know how to use the scientific method and should understand the difference between the scientific method and other forms of inquiry. To demonstrate this, the students should be able to follow the steps below to conduct an experiment at an appropriate level of difficulty:

a. Ask a question that can be addressed scientifically.
b. Formulate a testable hypothesis.
c. Design and perform experiments to test the hypothesis
d. Use sound ethical judgment in formulating an experiment.
e. Accurately and honestly collect and interpret data.
f. Process and analyze the data.
g. Draw conclusions from the experiment about the hypothesis.
h. Compare and contrast the scientific method to other methods of inquiry, particularly those used in the student’s own field of study.

3. Students should be able to present, comprehend, and critique scientific work.

This goal is demonstrated in the following ways:
a. They should be familiar with the conventional components of a presentation (Introduction, Method/Procedure, Results, Discussion).
b. They should be able to communicate their scientific findings to their peers in both written and oral forms.
c. They should demonstrate the proper means of citing other sources, and giving credit to co-authors.
d. Students should be able to define plagiarism as it applies to the natural sciences.

The Course

Syllabus

Syllabus for The Chemistry of Daily Life: Malnutrition & Diabetes

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Course Organization

This course uses as a unifying theme the two related topics of malnutrition and diabetes. Malnutrition, which literally means “badly nourished”, encompasses more than undernutrition. An inadequate intake of protein, energy, and micronutrients can lead to a significant increase in diet-related medical problems such as obesity. And we now know that there is a very clear link between obesity and significantly increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Undernutrition and obesity are challenges that face many countries, including the United States.

Chemistry of Daily Life can be viewed as being organized in two halves. The first half introduces basic chemical concepts that will be important when we take a closer look at the chemistry of food and nutrition. The second half (starting around Spring Break) will use these chemical concepts to help you develop a better understanding of:

  • how carbohydrates, fats, and proteins can serve as nutrients for the body
  • what micronutrients are and why they are important
  • food additives – their chemistry and regulation
  • poisons, toxins, and risk assessment
  • how new drugs are developed and approved

Structure of the Course

This course consists of 11 laboratory experiments. The first step in conducting an experiment is to read the instructions in the laboratory handout. During the laboratory period, you will conduct the experiment-working individually or in pairs depending on the particular topic-and then discuss the results with your neighbors and with me. You will then write a short laboratory report that presents and analyzes the results of the experiment. The structure of each report will be described during the laboratory period. Each report is due at the next laboratory period. For some experiments, you may be asked to complete a worksheet in place of the lab report. Late reports will receive a five-point penalty for each week they are late. Lab reports that are turned in less than one week late will have the late penalty scaled accordingly. It is your responsibility to ensure that all lab reports are legible. While I don’t require that lab reports be typed, I strongly encourage you to do this. Illegible lab reports may result in your receiving a lower grade because I could not read what was written. If a student fails to turn in three lab reports, the Associate Academic Dean will be informed.

Linking Science and Social Issues

Why is This Course a SENCER Model?

This course focuses on two related issues of growing national and international importance – malnutrition and diabetes. Nationally, 36.3 million people-including 13 million children-lived in households that experienced hunger or risk of hunger in 2004. Food insecurity rates were 22.1 % for African-American and 22.3 % for Hispanic households; double the national average. Globally, 852 million people across the world were hungry in 2004, up from 842 million the year before. In the developing worlds, 815 million people were undernourished and consumed less than the minimum amount of calories essential for sound health and growth.

Hunger manifests itself in many ways other than starvation and famine. Most poor people who battle hunger deal with chronic undernourishment and vitamin or mineral deficiencies, which result in stunted growth, weakness and heightened susceptibility to illness. Undernourishment negatively affects people’s health, productivity, sense of hope and overall well-being. A lack of food can stunt growth, slow thinking, sap energy, hinder fetal development and contribute to mental retardation. Poor nutrition and calorie deficiencies cause nearly one in three people to die prematurely or have disabilities, according to the World Health Organization. Pregnant women, new mothers who breastfeed infants, and children are among the most at risk of undernourishment. The other extreme of malnutrition is obesity. Globally, more than 1 billion overweight adults are overweight and more than 300 million adults are clinically obese. The rate of obesity has increased approximately 3-fold since 1980. It is estimated that more than 115 million people suffer from obesity-related problems in developing countries and that this number is significantly increasing among children and adolescents.

Among the many risks associated with obesity is the development of type II diabetes. More than 177 million people worldwide suffer from diabetes, with that number expected to more than double by 2030. In the United States, 18.2 million people in US had diabetes in 2002 (6.3% of population) with almost 30% of those individuals remaining undiagnosed. Native Americans, Latino, and African-Americans are known to be at higher risk of diabetes. In 2000, diabetes was the sixth leading cause of death listed on US death certificates. Complications from diabetes can include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure blindness, kidney disease and nervous system damage. In 2002 the estimated total cost of diabetes in the United States was $132 billion, with $40 billion reflecting indirect costs such as disability, work loss, and premature mortality.

What Strategies Does the Course Use to Both Advance Science Education and Foster Civic Engagement?

Strategies used in this course that serve both to advance science education and foster civic engagement include context-based active learning approaches, informal collaborative learning groups, “Just-in-Time Teaching”, a final group presentation that focuses on “performance of understanding”, and most recently a personal project intended to connect classroom topics to a real-life experience. Since Chemistry of Daily Life is a course that I’ve been teaching since 1998, some of the strategies described below had their origins before the course was consciously revised to incorporate a SENCER approach in Spring 2004.

The course naturally divides into two “halves”. The first half focuses on helping students develop a degree of comfort with the “language” of chemistry. This is accomplished by using a combination of mini-lectures, in-class worksheets that provide students with multiple opportunities to engage in active use of chemical concepts, informal collaborative group work, and some open-ended discussion questions. Wherever possible, examples used in lectures and worksheets come from every day life; the worksheet on identifying organic functional groups uses the structures of various OTC drugs and flavorings. In the second half of the course, the same combination of mini lectures, worksheets, and informal group work are used to introduce how the language of chemistry provides insight into the body’s use of various classes of molecules (fats, carbohydrates, proteins) as energy sources and how the body regulates these metabolic pathways. Malnutrition (undernutrition, obesity) and diabetes serve as the context through which scientific concepts important to understanding nutrition and metabolism are explored. In addition, we look at:

  • the relationship between protein structure and function with particular emphasis on enzymes and hormone receptors
  • the structure of DNA and how that is a key element of the technologies involved in genetic testing
  • micronutrients and the potential consequences of micronutrient deficiencies
  • toxicity and exposure in the context of risk assessment
  • how drugs work and how new drugs are developed

Throughout the course students are asked to utilize many of these concepts in contexts that are rooted in civic engagement and responsibility. These include:

  • recording what a student eats for an entire week and then evaluating that data in terms of current recommendations for good nutrition,
  • a scenario where students must use scientific information to make a recommendation regarding whether or not a particular drug is safe enough to
    approve
  • a case study where students must assume the role of a campus nutritionist and decide if they would allow foods with Olestra to be served in the campus cafeteria

The opportunity for students to demonstrate their understanding “by performance” comes at the end of the semester. In place of a final exam, students are required to complete a final group presentation. This presentation can focus on any topic related to chemistry and its applications to society that draws on concepts covered in the course.

Students are informed that the presentation should encompass both scientific concepts and a broader societal/civic perspective. They work together in groups of three (sometimes four) students to develop these presentations, which are given during final exams week.

Starting with the Spring 2004 semester, “Just-in-Time Teaching” (JiTT) has been an integral part of how the course is taught. As described on the JiTT web site (Just-in-Time-Teaching) JiTT is “a teaching and learning strategy based on the interaction between web-based study assignments and an active learner classroom. Students respond electronically to carefully constructed web-based assignments which are due shortly before class, and the instructor reads the student submissions ‘just-in-time’ to adjust the classroom lesson to suit the students’ needs. Thus, the heart of JiTT is the ‘feedback loop’ formed by the students’ outside-of-class preparation that fundamentally affects what happens during the subsequent in-class time together.” JiTT questions served several purposes during the semester:

  • they served as a way to assess what students did and did not understand from their reading prior to class
  • they served as a way to assess student understanding of a concept after it had been covered in class
  • they served as a way to have students apply chemical concepts to issues such as nutrition, the Olestra case mentioned above, and the evaluation of drug safety.

In the two semesters where JiTT was incorporated into the course, an anonymous survey at the end of the semester showed that over 80% of the students found that this approach was moderately, very, or very much helpful in terms of learning course material.

In the Spring 2005 semester, a personal project component was added to the course as a way to encourage students to connect the scientific concepts examined in class and the broader civic questions they relate to in a way that was much more personal than seems possible through just class discussion. Students could choose what their project was, although I did provide some suggestions: help with the Oxfam Fast for a World Harvest organized by Campus Ministry, help Campus Ministry with their monthly feeding of homeless individuals in downtown Pittsburgh (this involves both helping to feed people and spending time with them), working with the campus Wellness Center on an educational activity related to diabetes or obesity. Regardless of what project they chose, students were asked to keep a log of the time they spent on the activity and to write a reflection paper at the end. The paper focused on three questions – what did the student do, what did they learn from the experience, and how did they see their experience as being connected to concepts covered in the course.

The next time I teach the course (either spring 2006 or spring 2007) I will most likely include an activity from the Doctors Without Borders Bracelet of Life curriculum (found at Doctors Without Borders). The activity I plan to use puts students in charge of supplying the food for a Supplementary Feeding Center run by Doctors Without Borders. Students are asked to write out a menu for the week, making sure that each child in the feeding program is given the correct balance of calories, protein and fat while at the same time being provided with meals that are varied and as inviting as possible. A food composition table is provided to help in the planning.

Laboratory Component

Chemistry of Daily Life has an accompanying lab. The primary goals of the lab are:

  • to provide students with “hands-on” experience in using the scientific method
  • to develop in students the ability to present and critique scientific work by communicating their findings to both classmates and the instructor

Almost all of the lab experiments have a strong applied emphasis. For example, the lab that focuses on stoichiometry and balancing chemical equations uses the analysis of sodium in chicken broth as its focus. Acid-base chemistry is done in the context of evaluating the cost effectiveness of various antacids. Various experiments related to food chemistry are done throughout the semester, and students finish by completing a synthesis and purification of aspirin.

Evaluating Learning

Final Group Presentations

In this course, you have a final presentation instead of a final exam. The oral presentation is approximately 15% of your final grade, and MUST be part of a group presentation. Each group will consist of 3-4 people (absolutely no less than 3 and there should be no more than two groups of four). Your group may select any topic related to chemistry and its applications to society that draws on concepts covered in this course. Each person in your group will have 5 minutes to present their portion of the group presentation. You will be graded on your portion of the group presentation using the criteria listed on a separate evaluation sheet that I will distribute to you later. In addition, you should keep in mind the comments below on Presentation, Audience, Content, Timing, and Attendance. You must indicate the title of your group presentation and a list of the people in your group by Friday, April 15. This can be done either by a signup sheet posted on my office door or by email.

Presentation: Don’t be afraid to be original and creative. Your main goal is to share information with the other students in class in a clear and interesting manner. You are free to use whatever presentation medium you want; you are not required to use PowerPoint although that certainly is one possibility. If you stand in front of the class and read a prepared statement, you are doing the minimum required work and will receive a C. If your group decides to videotape the presentation and you simply stand/sit in front of the camera and read a prepared statement, you are still doing just the minimum required work.

Audience: Your audience is the rest of the class.

Content: The content of your presentation should be geared to the audience, be factual, and should blend and be part of a larger group presentation. Remember that the overall group presentation must contain a reasonable amount of chemistry as it relates to your chosen topic.

Timing: You have 5 minutes for your portion of the presentation. I will stop you if you run over.

Attendance: It is important that everyone has an audience to present their work to. You are expected to attend when other groups are presenting.

By Wednesday of the last week of class (April 27), each person needs to come to class with a bibliography and copies of at least 4 sources (maximum of two sources from the Internet) which are related to your group topic. The bibliographies will be turned into me; failure to turn in a bibliography will result in a 20% penalty on your final presentation grade. I will find exactly identical bibliographies highly suspect; although some overlap between bibliographies of people working in the same group is normal.

Chemistry of Daily Life Lab

Welcome to Chemistry of Daily Life Laboratory! The goal of this course is to help you learn about the process by which chemists think about chemical processes in the world around them. Many science courses have traditionally presented “science” as a series of facts to be memorized. The accomplished chemistry student was considered to be the person who could memorize a lot of chemistry “facts.” In this course, as in the classroom, I intend to give you the opportunity to experience the process of discovery that is at the heart of chemistry. Chemistry is a search to better understand how substances behave, the types of transformations that they can undergo; chemistry is NOT simply an accumulation of a bunch of facts regarding chemicals.

Many of the experiments that we will do are not simply demonstrations to convince you that what we discuss in class is true. Some of these experiments have been selected to give you a sense of some techniques used by chemists; others have been selected to expose you to some aspects of chemistry that are better dealt with in lab than in lecture.

Classes/Readings/”Just-in-Time” Questions/Attendance and Class Participation

As part of your work for this class, you will be asked to read approximately 10-15 pages of material in the textbook for each class period. Your reading should focus on identifying new terms/definitions and developing a basic understanding of what they mean. The time we spend together in class will be focused on working with concepts, relationships between concepts, and the relationship between concepts and informed decision making. By coming into class already familiar to some extent with what new words you will hear, you free up more class time for us to work on new concepts and their relationship to both previous material and the decision making process.

To help give me a better understanding of which concepts students understand and which concepts are giving all of you difficulty, I will regularly ask you to complete what are best described as “Just-in-Time” assignments. These assignments, each involving a few questions, will be completed by you individually and submitted to me through the course Blackboard site by midnight the night before the next time the class will meet. I will look over these assignments and use the information I gain from this to fine-tune what we will do in class that period. In order for this feedback loop between out-of-class assignment and what we do during class to be effective, I can’t accept late assignments of this type….period. No excuses, no explanations. I will do my best to design these assignments so that they less than 30 minutes (ideally around 20 minutes) for you to do. Assignments will sometimes be graded on effort alone, sometimes on the quality of the answer. There will be roughly 25 assignments of this type contributing to the total number of points allotted to this category. If a legitimate reason interferes with your ability to turn in a single assignment, it will have very little impact on your grade. Conversely, failure to turn in all the assignments will lower your overall course grade
about half a letter grade.

You should plan on spending about 4-6 hours a week working on chemistry. It is to your advantage to spread this time out evenly over all the days in a week, rather than trying to spend 4-5 hours in a single day once a week.

I expect students to attend class regularly and to be on time. This is particularly important in this course, given its nature. I trust that students who miss class or are late will find out (from other students) or me what happened in class. Attendance can be a factor in your final grade. Excused absences (medical, family emergency) will not be penalized explicitly, although numerous excused absences will affect your performance on exams and homework projects. Absences when an exam is scheduled will require documentation (note from doctor, health center, or appropriate College administrator); exams must be made up within 72 hours. An exam missed because of an unexcused absence cannot be made up.

While class participation is not an explicit component of your grade in this course, student who are active involved on a regular basis in class and are on the border between two grades will receive the higher of the two possible grades.

Notebooks

Keeping a detailed and thorough notebook is essential for understanding the process of doing chemistry. This is why each student is required to keep a permanent bound notebook that can be used to record experimental data. Composition books work particularly well for this purpose. Use the notebook as a note pad and a record book for all of your observations taken during the experiment.

After completing the experiment, each student will show me his or her notebook. I will be looking to see that the notebook gives a detailed explanation of the experimental procedure and all observations made, as well as the results generated during the experiment.

Exams/Final Group Project/Other Graded Work

There will be four in-class exams during the semester, each worth 100 points each. Tentative dates for the exams are given at the end of this syllabus; each exam will cover three or four chapters.

Instead of a final exam at the end of the semester, you will be required to make a 20 to 25 minute group presentation on a topic related to chemistry. You will be provided with a list of possible topics; the deadline for when to submit your group’s choice of topic will be decided by the class. Groups are free to choose topics that don’t appear on the list. You will be required to find current articles (print and Internet) for use as reference material for this presentation. A week before the presentation each group will be required to hand in a bibliography of sources found to date, and an outline will be handed in at the time of the presentation.

Throughout the semester there will be short announced quizzes at the end of many of the chapters. Each quiz will be worth 20 points; the five highest quizzes will count towards your final grade. Quizzes will be based in part on questions at the end of each chapter that I will recommend you answer.

There will be several small projects that students will complete during the semester. More information about each project will be given out in class. These small projects, along with the “Just-in-Time” questions, will be worth a total of 100 points towards your final grade.

SENCER and the Personal Project

This course is part of Saint Vincent College’s involvement in a larger science education reform project, Science Education for New Civic Engagements and Responsibilities (SENCER for short), that has been funded by the National Science Foundation.

SENCER seeks to:

  • connect science and civic engagement by teaching “to” basic science “through” complex current and unsolved public issues
  • show the power of science by identifying the dimensions of a public issue that can be better understood with certain mathematical and scientific ways of knowing
  • invite students to put scientific knowledge and scientific method to immediate use on matters of importance
  • extract from immediate issues, the larger, common lessons about scientific processes and methods
  • encourage student engagement with civic questions that require attention now, and helps students understand the interdisciplinary nature of these questions

To help you make connections between the scientific concepts we examine in class and the broader civic questions they relate to, each of you will be asked to complete a personal project. That project can be one of several different things – helping Campus Ministry with their organization of the Oxfam Fast for a World Harvest, helping Campus Ministry with their “Nights on the Boulevard” feeding ministry to homeless individuals in Pittsburgh, working with the Wellness Center to create/promote a diabetes or overweight/obesity education event, etc. Student ideas for personal projects are
welcome. As part of this project, you will be asked to keep a log of the time you spend working on it, and at the project’s end you will write a short reflection paper that will focus on what you learned from the experience and what connections you see between your project and topics we’ve covered in the course. More information on the personal project will be given out later in the semester.

Grade Summary

4 in-class exams (100 points @) 400 points
group presentation 100 points
quizzes (20 points @, five best scores) 100 points
personal project 50 points
JiTT, small projects 100 points

Total 750 points
Final grades will be determined from the grading scale found in the College Bulletin.

Chemistry of Daily Life Nutrition Small Project

One of the ways that you can better educate yourself about hunger and nutrition issues is to become more comfortable applying some of the concepts we’ve covered in class. To help you in developing this skill, your assignment is to make a detailed record of one week’s intake of food, vitamins, and other supplements. Consult nutrition charts and determine the percentage by weight of protein, carbohydrate, fats and other substances that you consumed. What percentage of the fat that you consumed was saturated? How much food (in terms of calories) would you estimated was “wasted” (e.g. not eaten)? Are there any changes to your diet that, based on concepts from this class, you think would be good to make? You should summarize your results in a 2-3 page memo. Your paper should demonstrate your basic understanding of selected ideas we’ve covered in class without going into extreme depth….if you understand an idea well, you should be able to present that understanding in a concise manner. Feel free to consult with me about any part of this assignment. A web site that you may find particularly helpful is the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory:

Nutrient Data Library

where you can find nutrient information for 1000’s of different foods. (Note – I’ve put up a link to this web site on Blackboard in the External Links section.) I will evaluate your work from the perspective of the Six Principles of Good Writing and how well you understand particular ideas.

Additional information on Possible Personal Projects from the course syllabus:

To help you make connections between the scientific concepts we examine in class and the broader civic questions they relate to, each of you will be asked to complete a personal project. That project can be one of several different things – helping Campus Ministry with their organization of the Oxfam Fast for a World Harvest, helping Campus Ministry with their “Nights on the Boulevard” feeding ministry to homeless individuals in Pittsburgh, working with the Wellness Center to create/promote a diabetes or overweight/obesity education event, etc. Student ideas for personal projects are
welcome. As part of this project, you will be asked to keep a log of the time you spend working on it, and at the project’s end you will write a short reflection paper that will focus on what you learned from the experience and what connections you see between your project and topics we’ve covered in the course. More information on the personal project will be given out later in the semester.

The following information is from Katie Wojtunik, Assistant Campus Minister. Any student interested in participating in one or more of these activities should contact Katie for more information.

“The dates we plan on going to Meals on the Boulevard are:
March 18
April 8th
April 29th
On Feb 18th, as part of our Spring Break Service Trip, we will be going to Pittsburgh, but from there we will be going to Gilmary Retreat Center. If students wish to drive seperately, they are welcome to do so. Also, if people wish to join us on the Service trip, that would be wonderful (I will send you more information as it becomes available). Cotillion is scheduled for Saturday, March 19th. So the Oxfam Fast for a World Harvest will take place shortly before that in terms of organizing and collecting meal donations.”

Additional information on Possible Personal Projects from the course syllabus:

To help you make connections between the scientific concepts we examine in class and the broader civic questions they relate to, each of you will be asked to complete a personal project. That project can be one of several different things – helping Campus Ministry with their organization of the Oxfam Fast for a World Harvest, helping Campus Ministry with their “Nights on the Boulevard” feeding ministry to homeless individuals in Pittsburgh, working with the Wellness Center to create/promote a diabetes or overweight/obesity education event, etc. Student ideas for personal projects are welcome. As part of this project, you will be asked to keep a log of the time you spend working on it, and at the project’s end you will write a short reflection paper that will focus on what you learned from the experience and what connections you see between your project and topics we’ve covered in the course. More information on the personal project will be given out later in the semester.”

The format of the paper should be a narrative essay that addresses the following (broad) questions:

  • What was the activity you participated in? Please give enough description so that I have a clear picture in my mind of what the activity focused on and what specifically you did
  • What did you learn from your experience? This question is focused more on what you learned from participating in the activity itself, not so much on the connections between your experience and class concepts
  • How did participation in the activity affect your understanding of concepts we have looked at in this course? This question is primarily concerned with the connections between what you did as your activity and the concepts we’ve looked at over the semester. You may find that your understanding of course concepts has changed, that your sense of how important some concepts are has been reinforced, that some concepts we covered seemed to contradict what you learned from the experience, or that there were some concepts we didn’t cover that we should have. This is not a question with a “right” or “wrong” answer; it is a question designed to get you to make connections between what you encountered in the classroom and what you encountered in your activity. At the end of your paper, please include a log of the time you spent working on the activity.

I expect that the narrative section of the paper will be around 3 pages in length. That will vary to some extent with things such as writing style, the nature of the activity, what things you choose to reflect on. The narrative itself should not be longer than 5 pages. Papers will be graded on the Six Principles of Writing and how you address the
questions above.

Related Resources

Text

The Extraordinary Chemistry of Ordinary Things (4th edition) by Carl H. Snyder.

Links

Background and Context

What is the Role of the Course in Saint Vincent College’s Undergraduate Curriculum?

Chemistry of Daily Life is a course specifically designed to help nonscience majors fulfill the natural sciences component of the College’s core curriculum. In the fall of 1999, the College began a process to consider if any changes should be made in the College’s core curriculum. Natural sciences faculty, who had been meeting on a regular basis for two years to discuss common concerns, asked themselves what understanding of science every Saint Vincent student should graduate with. Over a period of several months, faculty members worked together to identify over 50 specific learning objectives grouped under five broader goals (copies available from team leader). These objectives covered a wide range of areas including critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, fundamental concepts in various disciplines, the process of scientific discovery, and the impact of science on society and the human condition. The natural science goal within the core curriculum was revised to include understanding “the impact science has had on daily life and the human condition.” In addition, one of the characteristics of scientific literacy specified in this goal included the ability to “evaluate the impact science has had on the human condition.” This explicit emphasis on helping students better understand the impact of science on their lives represented a major addition to the natural sciences component of the core curriculum.

In the fall of 2001 the faculty at Saint Vincent approved a revised core curriculum that included the changes in the natural sciences goal described above. To achieve this goal, all students are required to complete one course with lab from each of two tiers of courses. The first tier (tier 1) is composed of foundation courses, each of which must broadly address our goals within the context of the course subject, and integrate chemistry, physics and biology. Completion of a first tier course is a prerequisite for all second tier courses. The second tier (tier 2) courses are more focused and in depth, and will require the students to apply the skills and content developed in first tier courses.

Chemistry of Daily Life is classified as a Tier 2 course, provided more in depth exposure to chemistry.