Spring 2020 Seminars

Evolutionary Biology

Dustin Brisson, Biology
Tuesdays, 4:30-6:30pm, University of Pennsylvania

The central organizing concept in biology is that life changes through evolution and that all life has a common origin. Evolution—the change in the proportions of traits or DNA sequences in a population over time—occurs every time an organism is born or dies as each of these events alters the proportion of some traits in that population. s such, evolution is not a theory but an observable process. This course will illustrate the processes and forces of evolution with both examples from nature as well as in-class demonstrations, and teachers will be encouraged to develop labs/demonstrations of their own. We will adhere to the mottos “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense Except in the Light of Evolution” as well as “Nothing in Evolution Makes Sense Except in the Light of Biology.” As evolutionary biology is a highly intuitive and engaging science, teachers from many grade levels will find the topics applicable to their teaching

New Approaches to the History of Slavery: The View from the Penn and Slavery Project

Kathleen Brown, History
Tuesdays, 4:30-6:30pm, University of Pennsylvania

This seminar will focus on developing new teaching and learning strategies from two interrelated areas of research on the history of slavery: an insider’s view of the research being done by the Penn Slavery Project’s student researchers, and an introduction to recent historical scholarship. Beginning in the fall of 2017, a group of students under Professor Brown’s supervision looked at various connections between the University and slavery, including economic ties to the slave trade and early medical research that promoted biological racism. The seminar will challenge teachers to find meaningful ways to bring this research into the schools. Throughout the semester we will brainstorm strategies for the K-12 classroom.

The Dark Fantastic: Reading Science Fiction, Fantasy and Comics to Change the World

Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Education
Wednesdays, 4:30-6:30pm, University of Pennsylvania

Humans read and listen to stories not only to be informed but also as a way to enter worlds that are not like our own. When people of color seek passageways into the fantastic, however, they often discover that the doors are barred. Even the act of dreaming of worlds-that-never-were can be challenging when the known world does not provide many liberatory spaces. The success of new narratives such as Black Panther in the Marvel Cinematic universe, Black Lightning on DC TV, and the blossoming of Afrofuturistic and Black fantastic tales, proves that all people need new mythologies. This seminar will examine multiple theoretical and pedagogical aspects of the fantastic, focusing on illustrated materials—including picture books, comics, and graphic novels. It will cultivate a keen understanding of how such materials can be used in 21st century elementary/middle/secondary literacy curricula. Students will complete course projects that focus on illustrated texts in specific classroom, research, critical, theoretical, home, community, and/or professional contexts.

A Visual Approach to Learning Math

Robert Ghrist, Math
Tuesdays, 4:30-6:30pm, University of Pennsylvania

This seminar will draw on ideas of mathematical visualization developed in Prof. Ghrist’s Calculus Blue series of online videos, as well as his most recent research and teaching. It will encourage teachers to think about how to draw and animate mathematics at a variety of levels, joining numbers and art. It will help teachers to break complex problems into simpler ones and identify questions students might to ask in order to get to the core of an idea. It will also point to connections be-tween mathematical abstractions and applications, including statistics, engineering and computing. The course will spur teachers to develop a fun and engaging approach to the math they teach in their own classroom.

Cinema and Civil Rights

Karen Redrobe, History of Art, Cinema and Media Studies
Wednesdays, 4:30-6:30pm, University of Pennsylvania

What does the dominant narrative of the civil rights move-ment—as expressed through film—reveal, but also distort and suppress? This course will use film and media resources, in-cluding local ones from Philadelphia, to help us think together about how to develop, energize, and expand course units on the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the questions we will con-sider include: how have filmmakers depicted the lives, aspira-tions, and strategies of those who have struggled for equality in the United States of America between the late 1920s through the mid-1970s? How can course units place the Civil Rights Movement in the context of other freedom struggles, including Black Lives Matter, that are part of students’ con-temporary landscape? What strategies have filmmakers adopted as they try to give audio-visual form to freedom, the struggle for it, and the denial of it? How can students evaluate the truth claims and versions of history and freedom offered in films?

The City in History

Howard Spodek, History
Wednesdays, 4:30-6:30pm, Temple University

What functions have cities provided—and for whose benefit? How and why did they flourish (and sometimes decline and even vanish)? What did they look like—from earliest times to today? This seminar will examine cities as they grow out of even earlier village settlements in the Fertile Crescent in the Eastern Mediterranean; the Yellow River Valley of China; the Indus River Valley in India/Pakistan; the Valley of Mexico; the Andes Mountains; and the Niger River Valley. It will go on to ancient Rome and Greece as well as medieval Europe; the industrial city; dual cities of European (and Chinese) coloniza-tion; post-colonial urbanization; and a variety of forms of ur-banization in today’s “developed” and “developing” worlds. The seminar includes extensive audio-visual materials on world urbanization and field trips in Philadelphia.

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