iCons 1: Global Challenges, Scientific Solutions

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In iCons 1 (NatSci 189H), content is marbled with context as students collaborate in interdisciplinary teams to develop solutions for real world scientific issues that bring together topics from Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Natural Systems, and Social Systems.

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Students learn how the fundamental science principles they’ve learned in other courses can (and cannot) be applied to real-world problems. No textbook is used in this course – readings, images, and videos are drawn from popular and scientific literature and websites.

Students in iCons 1 develop their ability to both work within and lead a multi-disciplinary team of their peers. The case studies require using and interpreting primary data to formulate a scientific argument, and in the process, becoming an expert in certain topical areas. iCons 1 is an active learning process during which students must ask questions, then find answers to their questions.

Each case study proceeds through five stages:

  1. Inception: Introduction to the problem, topic, and underlying science
  2. Engagement: Begin to think and learn about a topic, exploring boundaries of personal and societal knowledge.
  3. Research: Design experiments, evaluate date, formulate hypothesis, and fill in knowledge gaps.
  4. Creation: Create a tangible product (report, design, proposal), and share knowledge gained with the rest of the class.
  5. Reflection: Reflect on the case-study and teamwork experience. What insights and skills were learned? What can be applied to future problems, and what can be improved next time?

To demonstrate the difference between iCons and a traditional science course, you can find two lesson plans attached to this page. The first is a traditional lesson plan, showing how students might learn about carbohydrates in a traditional science course:

Sugar: A traditional lesson plan

This is contrasted with an iCons mini-case study on high fructose corn syrup:

High Fructose Corn Syrup: A mini iCons case study

During Spring 2011, the iCons 1 class addressed case studies on Cholera in Haiti, Alzheimer’s Disease, the BP Oil Spill, and Biofuels. The final project for the course is for student groups to create a case study, for future use in iCons 1 or other courses.

The complete iCons 1 syllabus from Spring 2013 is attached for further details:

iCons 1 Syllabus: Spring 2013

Note: iCons 1 fulfills the interdisciplinary General Education requirement (GenED I) and qualifies as an honors course for Commonwealth College students.