Natural sciences core offers worldly insight

By Joseph Barrios

Arizona Daily Wildcat

About 180 students are enrolled this semester in a comprehensive science course that covers a little bit of everything there is to know about the universe.

The University of Arizona administration wants every student to have the same experience.

UA administration unveiled a plan last week that would revamp undergraduate education for all freshmen entering the university in 1996. The plan would establish year-long, six credit courses in humanities and art, individuals and societies and natural sciences.

UA faculty has been asked to join any of 10 committees that will look into what the class curriculum should be and how feasible it is to teach a common core class. Provost Paul Sypherd said in an interview last week that committee reports should be completed within the next four weeks.

The new curriculum is scheduled to be in place by Fall '96. Sypherd said faculty would look at how freshman taking core courses would be integrated with other students using the general education system that is in place.

Each of the classes would be comprehensive and intend to provide a thorough general understanding of each subject. But the idea was realized over 10 years ago when Planetary Science/Astronomy 105 was offered as a class.

"People have strived for millennia to understand how the world works. That's really the purpose and foundation of the course," said Eugene Levy, Faculty of Science dean.

Levy said the 105 class is structured to look at science in general and to understand "how the world works." Instead of focusing on biology, physics and astronomy as separate areas of study, the class brings together all three.

The curriculum of the 105 course is similar to the proposed curriculum of the natural sciences core course. Under the draft of the natural science class, the first semester will focus on the origin and evolution of the physical world (galaxy formation, weather conditions, matter) and the second semester will focus on the origin and evolution of the biological world (origin of life, cells and the human species).

"It's simply a question of not being bound by artificial boundaries," Levy said.

And an appreciation of science is applicable to other studies.

"It was very exciting for me as a philosophy undergraduate to see that there were science courses that were not just about reductive facts; that were still speculative in nature," said Juanita Simpson, a philosophy graduate and teaching assistant in the department.

Levy taught Simpson's 105 section when she was an undergraduate in the 1980s. She said the class, although scientific, gave her a "big picture" understanding of the universe she uses in her philosophy studies.

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