Jul 24, 2024  
2024-2025 Undergraduate Catalog 
2024-2025 Undergraduate Catalog

The Natural World

Elizabeth T. Brown, The Natural World Coordinator

Scientific investigations into the natural world use analytical methods to evaluate evidence, build and test models based on that evidence, and develop theories. Quantitative reasoning, broadly construed, is humanity’s most powerful language for prediction and analysis of physical and human phenomena. Courses in The Natural World provide students with the opportunity to develop methodological awareness and problem-solving skills in the sciences and quantitative disciplines at the college level. Students will be introduced to the scientific method along with a substantial body of scientific facts, concepts, models and theories. They will also gain experience in using quantitative methods to obtain knowledge about the natural, mathematical, and social worlds. This area is cross-disciplinary, thereby demonstrating boundaries and connections among mathematics, statistics, the sciences and other aspects of culture.

The General Education  program recommends that students begin The Natural World during their first year and complete it by the end of their sophomore year if possible. Individual courses satisfy requirements in a number of major and professional programs. Students are encouraged to select appropriate courses in The Natural World on the basis of their backgrounds, interests and educational objectives.

The Natural World Learning Outcomes

After completing courses in The Natural World students will be able to meet the following objectives:

  • Describe the methods of inquiry that lead to mathematical truth and scientific knowledge and be able to distinguish science from pseudoscience.
  • Use theories and models as unifying principles that help us understand natural phenomena and make predictions.
  • Recognize the interdependence of applied research, basic research and technology, and how they affect society.
  • Identify the interdependence of natural systems with the social, economic and ethical aspects of global and local issues.
  • Use graphical, symbolic and numerical methods to analyze, organize and interpret natural phenomena.
  • Discriminate between association and causation and identify the types of evidence used to establish causation.
  • Formulate hypotheses, identify relevant variables and design experiments to test hypotheses.
  • Evaluate the credibility, use and misuse of scientific and mathematical information in scientific developments and public-policy issues.

The Natural World Structure

The Natural World consists of 10 credits distributed across four program requirements representing four different aspects of scientific knowledge: Quantitative Reasoning, Physical Principles, Natural Systems and Lab Experience. Students will choose one course to satisfy each of these four requirements. Quantitative Reasoning consists of mathematics or statistics courses. Physical Principles and Natural Systems consist of science courses. The requirements may be completed in any order, except in the case of courses denoted by an asterisk (*), which have a mathematics and/or science prerequisite or corequisite. In addition, students are required to have at least one lab experience. Certain courses are designed for future teachers, and enrollment in these courses may be limited to Education majors; these courses are indicated with a double asterisk (**).

Quantitative Reasoning

Students build mathematical models of systems and learn to understand, interpret and analyze data that is numerical in nature.

Physical Principles

Each of the courses satisfying the Physical Principles requirement investigates underlying principles of nature. These principles are applied to build models, often quantitative in nature, that explore and explain a variety of natural phenomena.

Natural Systems

Each of the courses satisfying the Natural World requirement explores the behavior of earth and life systems. Students will investigate interactions within these systems, between the systems and their environment, and with society.

Lab Experience

Each of the courses satisfying the Lab Experience emphasizes the observational and experimental nature of science. Through hands-on experiential learning, students will make observations and use them to test predictions and hypotheses.

Choose one of the following:

Physical Principles or Natural Systems course with a lab included, or: