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From mayonnaise to asteroids: science demystified

Two Concordia professors cook up lesson plans that are out of this world
August 22, 2016
By Marisa Lancione

How do we ensure students are engaged learners? One way is to change the way we teach.

This is exactly what Catherine Calogeropoulos, a part-time instructor in Concordia's Department of Biology, is doing with her “BIOL 203 - Fundamental Nutrition” course. Her challenge? Figuring out a way to make complicated scientific concepts understandable to non-science students. Enter the professional chef.

To accompany each lesson, Calogeropoulos shows a video segment of a seasoned cook preparing a meal that supports the concept of the day. “The cooking reinforces the chemistry,” she explains. “It’s easier to understand how lipids work by seeing how mayonnaise is made.”

But the course isn’t just about understanding science fundamentals. “It's also about learning vital life skills. I want my students to come away from my course enjoying cooking and knowing how to make healthy, sustainable, inexpensive meals.”

‘My hope is to stir interest in science’

Changing the way we teach isn’t just about providing students with alternative ways to digest tough material; it’s also about adapting the way we approach the classroom experience.

Mario D’Amico, a part-time professor in the Department of Physics, teaches “PHYS 298 - Introduction to Astronomy,” a blended course on the foundations of the discipline.

For his elective, which attracts students ranging in age from 18 to 80, D’Amico finds the flexibility of the blended approach an advantage. “Attendance to the lecture portion is optional,” he explains. “So those with time or travel constraints can learn most of the course on their computers.”

The environment also offers flexibility in the way students can complete their work. “Using online assignments with computer-generated marks and feedback allows them the opportunity to retry questions they get wrong.” This helps those without a science background learn difficult concepts while still keeping their grades up.

Taking D’Amico’s course is about more than just getting a passing grade to fulfill an elective. “We are at the dawn of space exploration and at the frontiers of scientific innovation,” he says. “My hope is to stir interest in science, physics and astronomy while ensuring that students enjoy a very relaxed experience.”

For more blended learning opportunities at Concordia, check out Concordia's first ever Massive Open Online Course.



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