The Power of Water

Alix D. Dowling Fink, Assistant Professor of Biology, and Michelle L. Parry, Associate Professor of Physics, Longwood University , Farmville, Virginia

The Power of Water (POW) is an integrated science course in Longwood University's general education program that explores basic science concepts, as well as questions of social responsibility and civic engagement, through the following learning units: water as the matrix of life, the global water paradox, water for human life, and the future of the oceans. Science concepts addressed in these units include aspects of environmental science (atmospheric circulation, global climate, and climate change), chemistry (molecules, chemical bonds, intermolecular interactions, and the universal solvent), the biology of disease (disease transmission and human immune function), and population biology (types of population growth, food web dynamics, and conservation).

The course has been revised several times to strengthen the connections between science topics and contemporary civic challenges and to take advantage of notable environmental events, such as the Katrina disaster. Since 2005 students have been required to incorporate science reporting from the New York Times into their regular homework assignments and classroom discussions.

Course Learning Goals for Instructors and Students


Instructor Goals

Instructor will teach students to:

Understand the major methods of natural science inquiry Recognize and explain major contributions of science to our cultural heritage Understand how natural science has been used to address significant contemporary issues" (Longwood University Undergraduate Catalog 2006-2007)
Student Goals

Relate science to personal and social contexts Become better at making personal and social decisions that are science-related Understand some of the historical development of science Understand the processes of scientific inquiry Learn to ask questions and seek answers that are evidence-based


Additionally, General Education courses at Longwood University will:

  1. Teach a disciplinary mode of inquiry and provide students with practice in applying inquiry, critical thinking, and problem solving
  2. Provide examples of how disciplinary knowledge changes through creative applications of the chosen mode of inquiry
  3. Consider questions of ethical values
  4. Explore past, current, and future implications of disciplinary knowledge
  5. Encourage consideration of course content from diverse perspectives
  6. Provide opportunities for students to increase information literacy through contemporary techniques of gathering, manipulating, and analyzing information and data
  7. Require at least one substantive written paper, oral report, or course journal and also require students to articulate information or ideas in their own words on tests and exams
  8. Foster awareness of the common elements among disciplines and the interconnectedness of disciplines
  9. Provide a rationale as to why knowledge of this discipline is important to the development of an educated citizen
  • How The Power of Water Links Biology and Social Issues This universal solvent dissolves disciplinary boundaries, allowing students to explore concepts in nearly any branch of science as well as difficult questions of social responsibility, social justice, and civic life.
  • The Course A traditional 4-credit course with lectures, labs and field experiences incorporating extended research and writing projects, this course is specifically designed to engage students as scientists and citizens through research and writing projects, case studies, field trips, peer teaching and links to campus programming. Syllabus is included.
  • Evaluating Learning A wide variety of assessment tools to test student knowledge are used in SENCER model courses. Students also assess the course as well as their own learning and report gains in confidence and interest in the topics and content.
  • Background and Context Taught for the 7th time in 2007, this course was designed to meet the general education requirement "application of the methods of science to the acquisition of knowledge, and an appreciation of the major contributions of science to our cultural heritage and to the solution of contemporary problems".
  • Resulting Projects and ResearchThe Power of Water has resulted in a number of student presentations that take what students have learned beyond the classroom. Professors have also given presentations on the course itself at a variety of symposia and conferences.
  • Related Resources References to materials used in class and other resources are provided.

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