Clare 102L Syllabus

Fall 2003 


Inquiry in the Natural World is one of the Core Area Courses in the Clare College core curriculum at Saint Bonaventure.  The laboratory is a distinct one-credit course; however, you must take the three-credit lecture course and the one credit laboratory concurrently.  The content of the two courses overlaps in that the major themes of the laboratory are considered in the lecture course as well. 


Inquiry in the Natural World is unlike other science courses.  Rather than changing topics weekly to track the lecture course, we will focus on a limited number of topics that are interconnected so the experiences will build from one week to the next.

Inquiry in the Natural World is also different than other laboratory courses because the laboratory procedures will rarely be specified for you.  Your group of either two or four people will be given a problem, and it will be up to you to figure out how to solve it!  This format minimizes the amount of preparation required of you prior to class, but instead it forces you to work efficiently as a team.  The laboratory experience is one of discovery rather than recapitulating worn out "follow the instructions" labs.  You will procede in the same way that scientists make new discoveries, by making observations, forming, testing, and evaluating hypotheses.  Thus, you will be challenged, but your efforts will be more rewarding as you solve the weekly problem.


The laboratory course is designed to meet a number of specific objectives.  They are as follows:

Understanding Scientific Methodology

1.      Students will understand that science is an objective process that allows them to distinguish between adequate and inadequate explanations of natural phenomena.

2.      Students will be able to perform a complete scientific investigation of an appropriate, testable, and measurable phenomenon of interest.

3.      Students will be able to apply the appropriate quantitative techniques to a data set such as graphical analysis, algebraic and dimensional analysis, and statistical testing, and correctly interpreting the result.

Content Specific Objectives

All laboratory exercises will be centered on the theme of energy and specifically the influence of the First (energy is neither created nor destroyed) and Second (energy conversions have a natural direction and inefficiency) Laws of Thermodynamics on the disciplines of Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.  As a result, students will have an understanding of how these laws apply to the following topics:

Physics:                        Laws of Motion

                                    Potential and Kinetic Energy

                                    The Earthís Climate System

Chemistry:                    Atomic Spectra

Rates of Chemical Reaction

                                    Exothermic and Endothermic Reactions

Biology:                        Cellular Respiration and Photosynthesis

                                    Energy Flow in Ecosystems


Consult your lab manual for specific weekly objectives.




Prof. Sue Hagen              110A  De La Roche            375-2487      

Dr. Jerry Kiefer                        21  De La Roche            375-2671      

Dr. John Kupinski                       214 De La Roche            375-2648      

Prof. Amy Noga                106 De La Roche            375-7611      

Prof. Kevin Vogel               110B  De La Roche            375-2558      


All instructors have regularly scheduled office hours that will be posted and announced in class.  If you are not available during any of your instructorís scheduled office hours, please make an appointment for another time.


During the second week of the semester, you will receive a lab manual.  This manual will contain all of the introductory materials to be studied prior to class including any pre-lab assignments; the laboratory exercises themselves will be handed out at the beginning of each class.  The charge for the lab manual is included in the $35 course fee which will be billed directly by the Bursarís Office.

Students are expected to bring pencils and calculators to laboratory every week.

Limited materials are available for use outside of the lab for independent projects.  If students wish to sign out lab materials, a refundable ten dollar deposit will be collected. 


The tentative schedule of topics on the last page lists what will be covered in lab on a specific day.  Cross attending of laboratory sections is prohibited except as approved by the instructors.

Because much of the work in laboratory is performed by groups and not by individuals, attendance in laboratory is critical.  The exercises are specifically designed to be performed by teams; an individual cannot be expected to do all of the work within the allocated time! When you miss a class, you place an additional burden on your lab partners.  Be fair to your classmates and make every effort to attend class (see peer evaluation system under grading below). 

If you unexpectedly miss a lab, you must contact your instructor AND make alternate arrangements within 48 hours.  Except for documented absences relating to university functions, there will be NO make-up labs.  You will, however, be given ONE opportunity to atone for a missed class by writing a paper on an approved topic.  These papers will be due two weeks after the instructor has assigned it.  Failure to turn in this exercise on time or subsequent absences from laboratory will result in a zero for that week (a loss of approximately seven percent from your course grade).  This option cannot be used as a substitute for the last lab exercise.

Expect the class to last the full two hours.  Depending on how efficiently your group attacks the weekly exercise, individual sessions may run overtime.  It is advised that you do not schedule another class or other commitments within a half hour of your appointed end time.  Special dispensations will not be made to accommodate schedule conflicts.


Weekly Evaluation and Final Exam (75%)

The bulk of the course grade will be determined by the evaluation of weekly assignments.  These assignments will include:  preparatory homework, quizzes, and in-class lab reports.

Pre-Lab Assignments

In order to maximize your success in the course, it is essential that you come to lab prepared.  Adequate preparation will require you to study the introductory material in the lab manual and complete the written assignment at the end of each reading.  There are two copies of the assignment so that you can hand one in to your instructor and use the other copy for reference during class.

Your instructor will collect these assignments randomly and may also, as a substitute or in addition, give an entrance quiz on the reading/written assignment.  You are guaranteed a minimum of four quizzes/homework collections; the average of these scores will count as the equivalent of an in-class lab report.

It will be assumed that you understand the introductory materials when you come to class.  If you are having difficulties, please consult your instructor in advance.

In-Class Lab Reports

Your group will be given an in-class assignment each week.  These assignments are due at the end of the class period.  Under no circumstances will your group be allowed to take the assignment out of class and hand it in at a later time.  Therefore, if your schedule allows, it is advised that you arrive early and preview the lab.  Classes will begin on schedule and tardiness will not be tolerated.

Each in-class assignment will be weighted equally and your level of success on one assignment does not predict or prevent success on any future assignments.

Final Exam

During the last week of the semester, you will be given a cumulative final exam.  All students must take the final to earn course credit.  This exam will be counted as the equivalent of a weekly laboratory assignment and calculated into the in-class portion of your course grade.

You have the option of dropping the lowest lab score (DOES NOT apply to zeros accrued from unexcused absences.  Refer to the above attendance policy).  If you exercise this option, the lab final will count double.  Your option choice must be submitted in writing prior to the final exam.

Scientific Investigation (25%)

Each lab group will conduct an independent scientific investigation, culminating in an oral presentation of results to the class and the writing of a group scientific paper.  In order to receive a passing grade for the course, all students must actively participate in an oral presentation and the final laboratory report must receive a satisfactory score (60%).  Individual lab groups will choose the investigation topics in consultation with the laboratory instructor. This project will fulfill several of the course objectives outlined above including the use of statistical testing to evaluate data.

Peer Evaluation

Each individual (anonymously) will rate all of the other members of their group at the end of the course.  Individual peer evaluation scores will be the average of the points they receive from the members of their group.  These evaluations will be used to adjust the score of the scientific investigation project.  If an individual receives on average a 90% on the peer evaluations, the individual will receive 90% of his or her score on the scientific investigation project.  All students must receive at least 60% in the peer evaluation to pass the course.  Scores below 60% clearly indicate that you have shirked your responsibility.  However, instructors reserve the right to overrule the peer evaluation score if it appears there is a miscarriage of justice.

Grade Calculation

Your course grade will be determined using the following grade scheme:

>93%               A                                             73-76.9%  C        

90-92.9     A-                                            70-72.9%  C-

87-89.9     B+                                           67-69.9%  D+

83-86.9%  B                                              63-66.9%  D

80-82.9%  B-                                            60-62.9%  D-

77-79.9%  C+                                           below 60%     F


Inquiry in the Natural World will follow the published schedule with regard to adding and dropping the course.  Below are the important dates:

1 September               Last day to add/drop

24 October                  Last day to withdraw without instructor permission

14 November              Last day to drop with a W

No student will be allowed to drop the course after the November 14 deadline except for severe and extenuating circumstances.  Both the lab instructor and the Dean of Clare College must approve these requests.

***Remember, all policies outlined in this syllabus are in addition to those regarding academic integrity specified in the student handbook (pp 51-57) and governing documents (available at


            LAB WEEK                        LABORATORY ACTIVITY           

Week of August 25               Introduction and Skills Exercise

Week of September 1                      The Simple Pendulum

Week of September 8                  Introduction To Scientific Investigation

Week of September 15           NO LAB (Work on Group Investigations)

Week of September 22                    The Inclined Plane

Week of September 29                    The Atomic Spectra

Week of October 6                          Chemical Kinetics: Rates of Chemical Reactions

Week of October 13                         NO LAB (Midterm Break)

Week of October 20                         Exothermic and Endothermic Reactions

Week of October 27                         Respiration and Photosynthesis#

Week of November 3                        Energy Flow in Ecosystems

Week of November 10                      Presentation of Scientific Investigation$

Week of November 17                       Climate Modeling#

Week of November 24                       NO LAB (Thanksgiving Break)

Week of December 1                         Maximizing Energy Efficiency

Monday, December 8                         Final Exam (6:30 PM, Murphy Auditorium)


#          These lab exercises are computer based and will be held in De La Roche 22. 

$            Tentatively scheduled in Doyle 127.