Thanks to Tony Moore–Dickinson writer and editor–for several great news stories about the Mosaic:
Crabs and Ooker on the Bay:
Fossils in the Quarry:
Hawks and Eagles on the Ridge:
and here is how it all started:
Writing About Natural History
(Part of the Natural History Mosaic Program)
Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual 5e.
Harrison, Ralph. The Elk of Pennsylvania.
Leopold, Also. A Sand County Almanac.
Warner, William. Beautiful Swimmers.
Welch, Craig. Shell Games.
Fergus,Charles. Wildlife of Pennsylvania.
Your last name, first name. Natural History Field Notebook.
Online dictionaries: Oxford English for advanced definitions: http://www.oed.com
Merriam-Webster for regular use: http://www.britannica.com/ Dickinson website.
Handouts and required written classroom exercises
Course Aims and Expectations:
This course is designed to improve your skills as a writer of expository prose by emphasizing the genre of natural history writing. We will concentrate on a variety of writing problems and techniques, emphasizing specific skills necessary to a wide range of writing tasks: description, summary, narration, argumentation, analysis, and interpretation. In all cases, our focus will be on the natural world, natural history, and human connections to that world. Our numerous field trips to museums and field experiences in the wilds of Pennsylvania will form the basis of much of our writing. You will keep your own natural history journal that begins today and ends on the final day of classes, when it will be handed in; this journal will record, analyze, and otherwise create an experiential and intellectual document of your experiences with the nonhuman world during our entire semester. So, some of your writing will take place in the field or near the field, some more of it in the library or at your desk. Discussions of essay reading assignments will be supplemented by group workshop sessions and individual tutorials. Students will have the opportunity to critique one another’s work and to compare their essays to works by natural history writers of the past and present. The course aims to concentrate your attention on the precise stylistic details that lead to effective writing.
–All essays must be typed: one-inch margins & double-spaced
–Assignments will specify a precise length for each essay
–Essays must be stapled or paper-clipped together
–Title page must include title, the author’s name, and the due date
–Essays due in class at 2:00 p.m. on the syllabus indicated date
–NO LATE PAPERS (or drafts) WILL BE ACCEPTED
Web Sites for Nature Writers
Grades will be based on the following distribution:
Essay 1 2 3 4 Revision In-Class Journal Exam-revision Writing : . 10 10 10 10 20 10 10 20 = 100%
Students must complete all of these requirements in order to receive credit for the course.
Class Meetings, Readings, & Essay Due dates: (T Th 2:00 p.m., K 152)
August 27: First class meeting of full Mosaic 10 a.m.-12 noon. Kaufman 152
28 Tu Syllabus and in-class writing exercise: what is “nature”? what is “natural history”?
30 Th Essay #1 due (a natural object: assignment sheet attached). Provisional grade is dropped if it goes up on September 14 version (see below).
September 4 Tu Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac. xiii-xix, pp. 3-137. What is good nature writing?
6 Th In-class exercise (sentences from student essays). Hacker & Sommers, “Clarity,” pp. 1-18
11 Tu Hacker & Sommers, “Grammar,” pp. 19-53, Aldo Leopold, pp. 138 to end
14 Th Essay #1 revised (a natural object). Hand in for a final grade. Workshop.
15 Saturday SUSQUEHANNA RIVER TRIP
18 Tu CHESAPEAKE BAY TRIP (be reading and finish Beautiful Swimmers)
20 Th CHESAPEAKE BAY TRIP (discuss Beautiful Swimmers)
25 T Vocabulary. Bring natural history journal to class with Bay writing. Hacker & Sommers, “Punctuation,” pp. 55-74
27 Th Read and bring The Elk of Pennsylvania booklet to class for discussion * * * Whistlestop Bookshop Reading, Prof. Nichols 4:30 p.m. * * *
28 Fr ELK COUNTY TRIP
October 2 Tu SMITHSONIAN, D.C., Trip. Pick a single exhibit space (write a two-page journal description of why the display is effective for the viewer)
4 Th NO CLASS Essay # 2 due (narration) (submit electronically to me by 3:15 p.m.)
9 Tu In-class exercise: “To see the wind with a man his eyes.” Hacker & Sommers, “Mechanics,” pp. 76-87
11 Th Charles Fergus, Wildlife of Pennsylvania. Pick a single CAPITALIZED SECTION from this book [ex. COYOTE, ELK, PUDDLE DUCKS, WILD TURKEY, LAND SALAMANDERS, POND AND MARSH TURTLES, WATER SNAKE]). At the start of class hand in a single double-spaced page about why this entry in Fergus’s book is well-written, using examples of language as details; then be prepared with notes to tell the class why your entry is well-written.
16 T FALL PAUSE (No Class)
18 Th Craig Welch, Shell Games. 1-115 Discuss
19 F STATE MUSEUM IN HARRISBURG
23 T Craig Welch, Shell Games 116-240. Hacker & Sommers, “Research,” pp. 88-103
25 Th Your field journal as a text. Bring you best paragraph, typed with copies for 12.
26 F HAWK-WATCH AT WAGGONER’S GAP
28 S JOSEPH PRIESTLEY’S HOUSE IN NORTHUMBERLAND, PA
29 M PITTSBURGH: PHIPP’S CONSERVATORY (ARBORETUM)
30 T PITTSBURGH: CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY
31 W PITTSBURGH: NATIONAL AVIARY
November 1 Th Essay #3 due: analyze Warner’s or Welch’s style. Animal rights: class positions, debate and discuss
6 T Essay (bring draft notes for Essay #4) Hacker & Sommers, Glossaries, pp. 259-278
8 Th NO CLASS Critique with a classmate or visit the Writing Center.
13 T Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac. xiii-xix, pp. 3-137. Link to your own experiences this term. In-class writing.
15 Th Aldo Leopold, pp. 138 to end. Link to what you have learned this term. Discuss.
20 T FINAL CLASS Essay #4 due (animal rights: interpretation)
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The day may come when the rest of the animal creation may acquire those rights which never could have been witholden from them but by the hand of tyranny. . . . “The question is not “Can they reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but, “Can they suffer?” –Jeremy Bentham (1789)
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22 Th Thanksgiving (No Class)
29 Th 1st Revision Due in Kaufman 192 2:00 P.M. (Essays 2-4)
30 Fr Draft of IR/IS projects due
December 13 Th FINAL EXAM (2nd Revision) Kaufman 192 by 5:00 p.m.
14 Friday Final IR/IS due FINAL MOSAIC DINNER
Professor Ashton Nichols Kaufman 192, East College 305.
A Natural Object
Spend at least one uninterrupted hour observing a natural object. The object can be large (star, sun, cloud, mountain), small (grain of sand, flower, ant, leaf) or in between (stream, tree, turkey vulture, rock). Your object should be one that had not been shaped or visibly affected by humans. You should observe it as carefully as possible. Do not engage in any other activity (conversation, writing, reading, etc.) during your observation. No Walkmans allowed!
What did you learn as a result of this experience? Write a 750-1,000 word (three to four typed pages) essay that explains to the members of our class what you knew at the end of this hour that you did not know before your observation began. Write with care and attention to the precise details of your experience. Your essay should have a thesis (a central controlling idea) and a clear organizational principle (chronological, psychological association, logical progression). Avoid errors of grammar, syntax, and spelling. Proofread you work carefully.
This essay is due at the start of class on Thursday, August 30, at 2:00 p.m. It should be typed, double-spaced, and should have a title page that includes a title that you have composed, your name, and the date
NO LATE PAPERS WILL BE ACCEPTED
NATURAL HISTORY FIELD JOURNAL
For our “Writing About Natural History” class, you will keep your own natural history journal. It begins today and ends on the final day of classes, when it will be handed in to me. This journal will describe, narrate, analyze, interpret and otherwise create an experiential and intellectual record of your experiences with the nonhuman world during our entire semester. This field journal will have no length requirement; it must, however, be complete. Do not let us find that you have no entry about our trip to the Chesapeake Bay. Do not give your readers half-a-page about the largest herd of elk east of the Mississippi. This journal should accompany you on all of our trips away from Dickinson and Carlisle.
You are encouraged to share your journal with your classmates, with other students, with professors, or with your family. You should feel free to ask me for advice or suggestions during the term, and you should feel free to copy “commonplace” selections into your your own journal (from Thoreau or Annie Dillard Emerson, from Wordsworth or William Warner); just make sure that you always indicate when the words you write are not your own. Consider all of our texts, classes, and discussions as source material for your own journal writing. Writing is a social and cultural practice. Your own writing always benefits when you see yourself as part of a reading and writing group of interested literate individuals.
I may collect these journals at any time during the semester. I may ask to see the journal—individually or collectively—at any time. I may ask you to read aloud from your journal on any day our class meets. I may ask you to make use of your journal for additional formal or informal writing exercises. In short, this writing will be a key component of your work for this class. In addition to your five formal (graded) essays and two formal revisions, this journal will form the basis for the bulk of your writing during the term. Let your journal be influenced by the other writing we do in and for class. Let your style be influenced by the readings we are doing and reading that you are doing for your other Mosaic classes. Take advice from your classmates, or ignore it; take advice from me and your other professors.
Keep your journal in a separate notebook that can be handed in to me or can be shared among your classmates at any time. It must be written in ink (longhand or printed), or printed out on computer sheets that can be included in a journal format. You can keep your rough notes or drafts elsewhere. Your journal should be work that you would want to read aloud to the class or that someone else could read aloud. I will collect these on November 20 for the last time and will hand them back to you by the end of term.
Let me know if you have questions.
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Natural History Mosaic
Independent Research/Independent Study
(A course credit in the Natural History Mosaic Program)
Course Aims and Expectations:
This credit—the 4th of your credits for the Natural History mosaic—will allow you to deepen you knowledge of one of our topics under the guidance of one or two professors. You will pick a topic during the first week of the semester, refine that topic during the early weeks of the semester, and then spend the remainder of the fall term preparing your final research or study project. The course will also provide an opportunity for peer editing and comment as well as regular interactions with your supervising professor/s.
Because of the faculty teaching assignments for the semester, seven of you will work primarily with Professor Nichols, two each primarily with Professors Key and Wingert. Those of you who know that your topics are primarily scientific (lab based, primary research, specimens, data collection and analysis) will need to decide whether your focus leans toward paleontology and marine biology (Professor Key or terrestrial biology and environmental science (Professor Wingert). Those of you whose work will fall in the disciplines of history, literature, cultural studies—and the like—will automatically work with Professor Nichols. A number of you may by assigned to Prof. Nichols but consult regularly with Prof. Key or Wingert.
Possible Independent Study Projects
Independent Study is a broad, literature-based investigation involving synthesis of already published literature and write up based on your own thesis statement and careful textual research. Possible ideas might include:
–history of a museum (Smithsonian, Carnegie) or collection within a museum (animal halls, fossils, rocks and minerals)
–critical biography of an author (Aldo Leopold, Annie Dillard)
–history of several natural history books or a series of field guides (Peterson Series, National Geographic, Audubon)
–essay about H. D. Thoreau (as a naturalist or a writer) or a more general biography
–architectural and/or historical study of the Joseph Priestley House 1794-1804
–essay about John James Audubon: his life, his fieldwork, his artistry
–the role of mass extinction in the history of biodiversity
– was T. rex a predator or a scavenger
– some aspect of the evolution of humans
– develop a new display on paleontology, evolution, or biodiversity (or a combination) for our new Kaufman museum
Possible Independent Research Projects:
Independent Research is a focused investigation involving actual specimens, data collection, data analysis, and write up. Possible ideas might include:
– biology or ecology of estuarine animals (e.g., Chesapeake Bay blue crab)
– evolutionary or paleoecological process (e.g., relationship of shark tooth shape to ease of penetration or mammal stride length vs. speed
–paleoenvironmental interpretation of clam fossil slab by modeling of clam shell behavior in a wave tank)
– comparison of barn owl diet with long-eared owl
– nitrogen comparison of two streams: one stream in a deer impacted area and the other in a healthy forest
– egg counts in Gray tree frog females
– macro assessment of three streams: one in a residential area, the other in agricultural area, and a control stream in a forested environment
You will pick a topic that will be approved by the professors by Friday August 31 and fill out the necessary registration form for the Registrar. This class will have regularly scheduled meeting times—9:00 a.m. Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Friday–but it will only use that time for the first several weeks of class. Then you will be working largely on your own and with individual meetings with your assigned professor (seven with Professor Nichols, two each with Professors Key and Wingert). We may have borderline research/study projects that will be shared between professors. We will keep these time slots open for individual meetings as the semester progresses.
August 29 9 a.m. What is an Independent Study or Research Project: How does it work?
31 1:30 p.m. Final decision and registration for your Independent Research/Study course
September 5 9 a.m. First meeting to plan schedules for semester
7 1:30 p.m. Individual meeting with professors
12 9 a.m. Individual meetings with professors
c. November 28 15 minute oral presentations
November 30 F First draft of Independent Study/Research project due
December 14 F Final version due
Let us know if you have questions.
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Ashton Nichols, K 192, EC 305
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Dickinson College makes reasonable academic accommodations for students with documented disabilities. I am available to discuss the implementation of those accommodations. Students requesting accommodations must first register with Disability Services to verify their eligibility. After documentation review, Marni Jones, Director of Learning Skills and Disability Services, will provide eligible students with accommodation letters for their professors. Students must obtain a new letter every semester and meet with each relevant professor prior to any accommodations being implemented. These meetings should occur during the first three weeks of the semester (except for unusual circumstances), and at least one week before any testing accommodations. Disability Services is located in Biddle House. Address inquiries to Stephanie Anderberg at 717-245-1734 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, see the Disability Serviceswebsite: www.dickinson.edu/disabilityservices.