BiSci 003 is one of Penn State’s most well-known “easy gen eds.” This science class that’s designed for non-science majors is more than just a typical environmental science class, though. The course focuses on the Earth and how we as humans interact with it. Throughout the semester, students are taken on a journey where they learn about themselves and get the chance to connect with other students in their labs on a more personal level.
The class lectures are writing-based and most of the homework assignments are short, written assignments about the Earth and the state of our planet. You’re given a “journal” at the beginning of the course and encouraged to decorate it with something that represents you. There are no tests throughout the course because Doc, aka Professor Christopher Uhl, believes that better learning takes place through journal responses and in discussion labs.
Out of the 700 people that take this course, small groups are created that meet once a week in a more personal setting. Small groups are made up of about 12 people, and participation and attendance is highly encouraged not only to do well in the class but also in order to get something out of the class. Discussion groups are focused on getting to know yourself and others better; some could even describe the weekly discussions as group therapy.
As my time at Penn State comes to a near end, I can say that BiSci 003 is one of my favorite classes I’ve taken. My favorite part of this class was the discussion groups. Keeping the groups small made it easier to get to know the strangers I would come to call friends, and the activities conducted during discussions were really about opening up to get to know one another. Thought-provoking and personal questions were asked to get us to connect and think on a deeper level, and connections were made during the class that I will take with me forever.
The last and most profound activity we did during lab was an activity where each person got a piece of paper. We walked around the class anonymously writing on each person’s paper something we’d learned from them or we wished for them. Not allowed to read it until the end of class, our TA told us to keep the piece of paper and look back on it when you need to smile. It’s now three years later, and I still keep the piece of paper in a special box.
BiSci 003 is all about growing as a person and discovering your true identity. If students really give this course a chance, it provides a unique opportunity to explore new possibilities within yourself and through others!