Plants & Human Affairs - Introduction
Cherries.wmf (7140 bytes) Plants & Human Affairs (BIOL106)  Stephen G. Saupe, Ph.D.; Biology Department, College of St. Benedict/St. John's University, Collegeville, MN 56321;;

General Information

"O Tiger-Lily!" said Alice addressing herself to one that was waving gracefully about in the wind, "I wish that you could talk!"

"We can talk!" said the Tiger-Lily. "When there's somebody worth talking to."

Alice was so astonished that she couldn't speak for a minute. It quite seemed to take her breath away. At length, as the Tiger-Lily only went on waving about, she spoke again, in a timid voice -- almost in a whisper. "And can all the flowers talk?

"As well as you can," said the Tiger-Lily. "And a great deal louder."

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Instructor:         Dr. Stephen G. Saupe
Office:              335 Science Bldg; 363-2782;
Office Hours:    schedule posted on my web site
Web Site:
Course Web Site:

Course Description:  This course will examine the way in which plants have been utilized by humans and the economic, historical and social impact of their use on our lives.  Or in other words, from the perspective of the Tiger � Lily, our explorations will make us "worth talking to."

    Ultimately, this course will focus on the "practical" side of botany.  The course is divided in four major units: (1) Science - during this unit we will focus on the philosophy and nature of science, experimental design, and how to recognize pseudoscientific ideas; (2) Evolution - this is the major integrating theme in all of biology and arguably the single most important concept in the biological sciences.  During this unit we will look at the history of evolutionary ideas, natural selection, and recent threats to evolutionary ideas; (3) Horticultural techniques - in this unit we will study basic botanical principles specifically how they apply to your garden; and (4) Economic Plants - plants that are used by people.  In addition throughout the course we will discuss plants that have played an important role in our holidays. 

Texts: (required, available in the SJU Bookstore)

  • Capon, B (2005) Botany for Gardeners.  Timber Press, Portland.
  • National Academy of Science.  Science, Evolution, and Creationism.  National Academies Press, Washington.
  • in addition, various other articles will be assigned

Goals: Upon completion of this course you should be able to:

  1. Describe the nature of science and be able to recognize pseudoscientific ideas
  2. Describe evolution and recent threats
  3. Identify the morphological and anatomical structures of some economically important plants
  4. Describe the uses, origin, cultivation, and preparation of some economically-important plants
  5. Perform laboratory techniques and analyses involving economically-important plants
  6. Describe the life cycle of a flowering plant
  7. Describe the origin of agriculture
  8. Describe the use and importance of plants to indigenous peoples of the world
  9. Identify and address ethical issues in ethnobotany
  10. Describe the biology and importance of various medicinal plants

Audience: This course is intended for non-science majors and it fulfills the requirements for a Global Awareness flag.

Attendance:  I do not directly penalize you for absences from lecture. However, I will keep track of your attendance by passing around a sign-up sheet.  If you come in late try to remember to sign the sheet before leaving class (to thank you for signing the attendance sheet, you will receive a  valuable botanical sticker).  This information will be consulted only if you are on a grade borderline.  Whether you are absent or not, you are still responsible for completing assignments (i.e., turning in any that are due and getting the assignment for the next class).  In general, you will not be able to make up anything missed in lecture.  You must attend every scheduled lab - No exceptions!

Class Time/Place:  The lecture section meets Days 2-4-6 from 11:20 - 12:30 a.m. in PENGL 325, SJU. The laboratory meets 1:00 - 3:50 pm on Day 6 in PENGL 342.  Plan on being in lab the entire scheduled period!  Some lab work may be conducted outside of class. 

Class Format:  Class material will be presented via lectures, laboratories, and discussions. Laboratory exercises are designed to parallel and augment lecture material. Discussions will focus on a particular topic of interest. Various demonstrations, in-class exercises, and AV materials are also anticipated. I try to minimize lecturing because I believe that science is best learned by "doing." Cooperative learning will also be an important part of our course.

    The general format of each day will be similar so that we can establish a routine or ritual for our studies.  Our format is designed to be fun and to get you moving, talking, and thinking in class right away. 

  • Music will greet us at the beginning of class (selected by the class leader; begins no later than five minutes before class.  The music will set the stage for our studies and relax our minds so that we can focus on our task ahead.)
  • Gather Materials - check the front desk for any handouts. A good student is prepared and ready to begin work when the period begins.
  • At exactly 1:00 pm I will turn off the music and the class leader will ring the gong and announce, "Class is now in session."
  • Opening Greeting: I will greet you by saying "Good Morning/Afternoon". The class will respond, "Good Morning/Afternoon".  (Please return my greeting heartily. "The secret of joyful living is joyful greeting and that is why we greet each other" - Dr. P. Pendse).
  • I will then ask, "How are you this morning/afternoon?" The class answers enthusiastically (one of the following on the overhead or other selected by the class leader):

"Fine and dandy! Why shouldn't I be?"
"I am super good, and getting better!"
"I am fantastic, and improving by the second!"
"I am terrific; you better believe it!" (while saying this thrust your finger towards the instructor)
Or, other greeting selected by the class leader

  • Announcements (from instructor and solicited from the class)
  • Class overview (provided by the instructor)
  • Class Activities - during each class we will typically provide time to:

Review the previous class material (definitions, summary, quizzes, etc.)
Introduce new material (lecture, dialogs, videos, slides, etc.)
Practice & drill new material (exercises, quizzes, etc.)
Cool Down - review class activities

  • Five-Minute Warning - the class leader will ring the gong.
  • End of Class - please do not pack up to leave until we show our mutual respect for one another.  I will close by saying, "Thanks - that ends another incredible day of biology."  The class responds by saying, "Ditto, dude!"  Or, the class leader selects a different closing. 

Classroom Etiquette:  The following is a list of suggestions to make our classroom experience as enjoyable and productive as possible for all of us:

  • Please turn off your mobile phone before class
  • Obviously, if you need to use the toilet during class, please do so.  However, please attempt to use the toilet before class so that you do not disrupt class proceedings when leaving/returning to your seat or miss any class activities
  • Unless you absolutely need to leave class before the period ends, please wait for me to dismiss the class before packing up your books, etc.
  • If you bring food to class, please eat quietly and clean up after yourself
  • Tidy your area before leaving class - return any supplies to the front desk, etc., throw away garbage, papers, etc.
  • If you arrive late, please sit in the first available seat to minimize disrupting others
  • Please do not talk, pass notes, send text messages, etc., during class.

Email:  I typically check and respond to email first thing in the morning (between 8 & 9:00 am) and before I leave in the evening (usually about 5:30 pm).  If you send an email after about 4:30 pm I will not see or respond to it until the following day because I do not check email after leaving my office.  Please plan accordingly.

Evaluation: Grades will be assigned on the basis of your performance on:

    1. Lecture Exams (48% of your total grade) - There will be four lecture exams each worth 12% of your final grade. These exams will be largely objective questions (i.e., matching, fill-in-blanks) and some short answer questions. Exams may be completed in pencil or ink. For some hints on how to study for a science course, check out the Study Tips and More Study Tips I wrote for my introductory biology (BIOL121 & 221) courses.  If you ever need assistance or have questions, please come and see me.  In addition, we will schedule regular review sessions to help you keep up with the material. 
    2. Lab Work (40%) - Generally, you will be asked to complete an assignment for every lab.  Unless directed otherwise, all assignments will be completed individually (though often using group data).  We will learn that scientists do a variety of different types of studies and that these can roughly be divided into four areas:  (a) observational/descriptive science; (b) taxonomic or systematic science; (c) hypothetico-deductive science (the classic 'scientific method'); and (d) model building.  Lab experiences have been selected to provide an opportunity to participate in each of these types of scientific endeavors.  The labs/assignments include:
      • Deciduous Trees - Pre-Lab & Quiz

      • Leaves & Climate - Pre & Post Lab assignments

      • Osage Orange Experiment - Pre-Lab & lab report

      • Brine Shrimp Experiment - Post-Labs #1 & #2

      • Greenhouse growth

      • RCBr Pod Size Lab

      • RCBr Life Cycle Lab - Journal & pods

      • Surface/Volume Ratios -  Pre & Post Lab assignments

      • Forensic botany

    3. Assignments (8%) - During the semester you will be asked to complete a variety of assignments.  These will be worth 4% of your final grade.  Most of the assignments will relate to preparation or summary of class activities.  Among the assignments will be: 
  • Plant care brochure

  • Pseudoscience presentation

    1. Class leader (4%) -  Once during the semester you will be assigned to be our "Class Leader". The purpose of this assignment is for you to take a little responsibility for our class activities and to provide a structure for you to do a little research on a course topic.  These are "easy points" to obtain and can help your grade.  I won't remind you when it is your turn, check the schedule.  When you are class leader, it is your responsibility to:
      • Choose the music for the day - to be played at the beginning of class.  Bring in a tape, CD, or iPod  and have it in the player ready five minute before class.
      • Choose the "Greeting for the Day" (or create your own)
      • Choose the "Quote of the Day" and put it on a PowerPoint Slide and post it in our course Public Folder.  This quote should be either botanical (i.e., related to the course) or inspirational.  To find a quote, I have a large selection in a file in my office.  Or, you can visit the "Quote Jar" in the Bailey Herbarium or any quote website.  You may not reuse a quote used by a previous student.
      • Choose the "Country of the Day" and write it on the same PowerPoint slide as your quote.  This slide should be projected on the screen at the beginning of class.
      • Choose a "Plant of the Day."  Then, prepare a one-page PowerPoint slide presentation about your plant.  At the beginning of class, you will give a brief (meets the lighted match test) presentation about your plant.  Check out the Plant Portrait form for an idea of things to include in your presentation.  Note that your final PowerPoint will be two pages:  the first page will include your name, quote-of-the-day and country-of-the-day.  The second page will feature your plant-of-the-day.  
      • Make sure that the attendance sheet and stickers get passed out.
      • Be timekeeper - sound the gong to start class and when there is five minutes remaining.  Also make sure we stay focused - ring the gong if we get off on a tangent.
      • Print a copy of the grading rubric for this assignment and bring it to class and give to me.
      • A schedule of class leaders is posted in our course web site. 

    Your course grades will be assigned based upon the percentage of total points accumulated according to the following scale: 100 - 91% = A; 90 - 87% = AB; 86 - 81% = B; 80 - 77% = BC; 76 - 71% = C; 70 - 67% = CD; 66 - 60% = D; below 59% = F.

    Getting good grades is very important. Work hard and you will succeed! Remember, review sessions are your secret weapon for success!

    Good achievement on exams will be recognized by stars on your exams (gold = top score; silver = 2nd highest, red = 3rd, green = 4th, blue = 5th).

    To determine your approximate grade at any time during the semester, simply divide the total number of points you have accumulated by the total possible (this information will always be provided). In addition, I will periodically post grades, anonymously, on the web (if you prefer your grade not be posted by an anonymous manner, please let me know).  Check this report for accuracy and to provide an indication of your standing.  I recommend that you keep for your records all of your graded work.

    Never hesitate to come and talk to me about your grade, or any aspect of the course, at any time during the semester!

    S/U grading can be requested at any time during the regular semester. You must submit your request in writing on a separate sheet of paper (not on a test or other assignment). Note: "S" is awarded for a letter grade of "C" and above.

Appeals:  You have the option of appealing the grading you've received on any exam question or assignment.  To do so, type on a separate sheet of paper your rationale for why you should receive credit for the question.  Be sure to frame your argument carefully and concisely.  Turn in your typed appeal and the original assignment or exam within one week of receiving the original graded assignment.  Please note that if I have made any errors in grading your exams (i.e., incorrectly counted up points, mis-marked a question) please see me immediately and I will correct the error without the need for an appeal.

Bonus Work You will have the opportunity to earn bonus points by attending lectures, analyzing journal articles, participating in formal nature walks, or even reporting on science-related television programs.  If it is "scientific" and can be reasonably considered to pertain to our course you can earn bonus points for participating in the activity.  Obtain a "Bio-Bonus Card" and turn it in to me following the activity.  Cards are due no later than Study Day.  As a general guide -  lectures are worth five bonus points, journal summaries and book reviews are worth 3 bonus points, and summaries of TV programs are worth 1 points.  For other activities, we will assign an appropriate number of points.  If in question, ask.  As a rule of thumb, more than 20 bonus points will have little impact on your final grade.

File: You will have a personal file folder in a file box in SC 343 (Botany lab). You may use this file to store papers/notes/etc. In addition, I will place in this file any assignments not returned to you personally. Also, extra copies (if any!) of handouts will be available here. When in doubt or need, check here.

Flags: This course has a Global Reasoning flag. This requirement will be fulfilled by lab reports, homework assignments, and in-class writings.

How Much to Study? As a general rule of thumb, you should study at least 2 hours for every hour in class. Thus, at a minimum you should be studying at least six hour per cycle for lecture exams. Note that this doesn't include lab work or completing assignments. Imagine that you are an academic athlete working on the mental practice field. 

Honor Code: I run this class on the Honor Code system; in other words, I trust you to do your own work at all times. If you violate my trust, the consequences will be severe. If you have even the slightest doubt that an activity violates the Honor Code - don't do it. In addition to the obvious violations (i.e., cheating on exams, plagiarizing), turning in data from someone else without giving them credit, is a violation of the Honor Code. In general, no photocopies, other than group raw data, will be accepted from another source.

Laboratory: Since "the lab is the place where science gets done," it's not surprising that this course has a lab component and it contributes to a major portion of your grade. The major objectives of lab in this class are to: (1) provide a introduction to the scientific process, and (2) give you an opportunity to work hands-on with a variety of plants and their products.

Late Assignments: I reserve the right to accept or refuse late assignments.

Pride: I believe that the appearance of an assignment is a reflection of the quality of the work and the degree of respect it deserves. Thus, for your benefit (and my eyesight) I require that all written assignments (with some obvious exceptions - when in doubt, please ask). Assignments not typed will be penalized 50% of the total possible points. Also, assignments completed on paper torn out of a spiral notebook will be penalized 20% of the total possible points. If you like to use spiral notebooks that's fine - simply remove the frayed edges before turning in your work. Please remove perforated strips from computer paper and separate pages. Assignments should be stapled if more than one page.

Questions: Always welcome!!

Required Materials: In general, you will be supplied with everything you need. Your student account will be charged a lab fee, as specified in the Course Booklet, for expendable supplies.

Teaching Philosophy: I think that learning should be enjoyable. Hopefully we will laugh together and have fun. Stamps, stars and stickers will adorn some of your graded assignments. "Biological" music will greet you when you arrive in class. This is all done in good fun, to make our learning environment more pleasant. Yet, we will always be respectful of one another. Some students in the past have commented that they think some of what we'll do is "childish." I hope so because I want to generate some of the fun and enthusiasm that children have for learning. But remember, even though we may be silly and have fun, I am still very serious about the goals of our course.  I have provided a more complete statement of my teaching philosophy if interested.

Three Ring Notebook: I recommend the use of a three-ring spiral bound notebook. All course materials will be punched with three holes for your convenience. It has been my experience that students with well-organized notebooks perform better than those with messy, unorganized ones.

Visitors: Visitors to our classroom are welcome. Please introduce them to me. And, they should plan to participate (as best they can) in class activities

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Last updated:  08/28/2008    � Copyright  by SG Saupe