By MaryAnn Yaeger
Delaware Technical Community College
I teach general education courses, so none of my students are planning to major in my field of instruction. Because of this, students often wonder what value the class holds for them. So beyond emphasizing the intrinsic value of learning, and how my course does indeed apply to their field of employment, I try to incorporate realistic, practical, and interesting situations into my classroom.
One way that I do this is by relating course material to memorable events. Just this week, in Microbiology, we discussed a 30,000 year-old virus that was recently discovered and still able to infect amoebas. Last week, when we discussed the antimicrobial properties of silver, I told them about the “Blue Man” (blue skin brought up by ingesting silver), and the “Mad Hatter” (mental disabilities brought on by mercury poisoning). These bizarre topics often make associations that help students retain difficult material. Remembering that silver can inhibit microbial growth is a little easier when you can picture the Blue Man in your head.
I also try to capture students’ attention by incorporating personal experience into the class. Bacteria growing on a petri dish may not interest them, but when they bring a moldy piece of bread from home and we stain the mold and microscopically examine it, microbial growth becomes more personal and interesting. Wearing protective equipment in lab may seem burdensome, but the importance of it is emphasized when I can say thirty years ago I was pipetting by mouth because no one realized the dangers of it at that time, and we may be currently protecting ourselves from something that we have not yet discovered.
I love microbiology, and chemistry, and biology, and everything about how the human body works, but I realize my students my not share that same love. So, when the material in the text book fails to captivate them, I’ve got moldy bread and blue men to do the rest.
What is the toughest material that you have to cover? Have you found any ways to captivate your students with it? Leave a comment and let us know.