Many undergraduate pre-med students see little relevance of plant biology to their daily lives or future careers. I have developed assignments for a sophomore-level plant biology course that incorporate readings from from The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. After reading a chapter students define botanical terms within the context of the book and write a response to several instructor-provided questions. Each chapter is integrated into a larger topic in class and students discussed relationships between topics on the novel and course content. For example. the fourth chapter discusses domestication and genetic manipulation of the potato. Students are asked to compare traditional Peruvian potatoes to those available in grocery stores and discuss the feasibility of growing a wide variety of potatoes on a large scale in the United States. In class, the chapter is used as a guide for learning about the creation of genetically modified (GM) crops where students compare genetic transformation to plant breeding, create a list of the pros and cons, discuss prior beliefs and formulate their own scientifically-based opinion on the use of GM crops. The majority of students (85%) responded positively to the activities and most students said the book was applicable to class content and helped them relate to the material.
Herman, Maryann, "Generating interest in Plant Biology among predominantly pre-med undergraduates using a popular science novel" (2011). Biology Faculty/Staff Publications. Paper 23.
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