Core Curriculum

The Natural World

Course Structure

A menu of five-hour lecture/lab courses to be taken from the first year onward. Courses not required of science majors.

Learning Objectives

  • To gain awareness of some significant scientific theories and achievements, and to recognize how they are related both to other areas of science and to our understanding of broader societal issues.
  • To develop an understanding of the methods of natural science and a capacity to reason scientifically.
  • To experience first-hand the scientific process method through discovery-based learning.

"We are not trying to teach basic science in a vacuum," Dr. Angela Ockerman explains about the course she co-teaches with Dr. Jennifer Kowalski, Life, Death and Immortality.  Rather, she continues, "We are demonstrating-almost EVERY DAY in class-how completely inseparable basic science is from everyday life in a personal way."  Focusing on the story of Henrietta Lacks, the woman whose cancer cells were used without her permission, the course integrates cell biology and genetics, healthcare, and social justice issues.  As one student noted, the course "made cells and science more real since it involved an actual person.  And it brought the cells closer to me instead of just looking through the microscope at 'unknown cells'….The cells were actually real and part of something much bigger."

Science and society intersect in other courses, as well.  In Dr. Tara Lineweaver and Dr. Phil Villani's course, Food: Pasture, Table, Body, Mind, students "do science," Lineweaver affirms, "not just learn about it."  Field trips to local farms are complemented by a community engagement project that requires students to plan, prepare, serve a meal at a local free-meals program, and share the meal with community members who regularly rely on the program. 

In Dr. Marva Meadows course, The World of Plants, Butler students pair with students at the Indianapolis School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  Together, they'll form "Tree Teams" and develop expertise on tree types found on both campuses.  Such collaboration "will allow them to develop an understanding of how science works," Meadows says.  But even more, Meadows notes that "As scientists we often rely too heavily on sight and this experience will demonstrate to our students the value of using all their senses in making meaning of the natural world."