Ideas, please!

I am thinking about designing a First Year Seminar for the Autumn semester of 2019.  The people that run this program tell me

The First-Year Seminar Program provide[s] unique learning experiences for first-year students. Seminars are capped at 18 first-year students to allow for significant student discussion and participation.

I did a couple of these about 15 years ago, and they were really fun to teach and fun to be in.  My goal then was to present some really exciting ideas about astronomy and to show how science works.

I could think of ideas on my own – and I have – but I would like to hear from all of you.  What would be a really fascinating topic that you would like to learn about or wish you had a seminar in?  If you could have a prof teach you just what you wanted for a semester, what would it be?  No matter that you won’t be first-year students next year, because (1) once in a while a more senior student can be admitted to a seminar, and (2) I just might want a senior student to help me design and present the seminar. This would be a good experience for anybody who wants to go do any teaching in the future.

Please present your ideas in the comments below, and let’s discuss them.  The ideas can be about anything: science and science fiction, ETs or extraterrestrial travel, sociological issues – you name it.

If you ever took a First-Year Seminar, tell us:  how did it go?  What were the best parts?  That sort of discussion will help me design the new course.

I have to decide what to do by February 20, so please chime in soon.

Thanks!  I’m looking forward to a lively discussion.

2 thoughts on “Ideas, please!

  1. I feel like a potential Astro first year Seminar would be best suited for diving in to and highlighting some of the research currently being done in the field at the moment. I feel like in many traditional courses, this might not get emphasized enough, and it may make students (specifically first year students) more tempted to get involved in keeping up to date with recent astronomical news and findings. While this may be a little difficult to pull off as many topics you would consider for the course could contain complicated astronomy topics, I’m quite certain that 4-5 current projects could be introduced and discussed with some background conceptual content thrown in as necessary.

    The class could also encourage digging through and making some sense out of the research papers published by such projects.

    Of course, this is an Astro major saying what he’d have wanted to take a class in, so it many not be the most popular overall, but I think it would be a valuable optional addition to the curriculum.

  2. This is something targeted more towards the general student population than necessarily just astro majors/minors, but I’ve always liked the idea of a class examining the effect that fiction has on actual scientific development, focusing specifically on astronomical research and things like interplanetary travel and colonization. Although the name “science fiction” should make it obvious that often these works of fiction are based off of actual science (to a certain extent), I’ve found it interesting that often the reaction from fans in the scientific community is “Well that’s neat, how can we bring that fiction into reality?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.