This year, I am taking the dreaded science breadth requirement. The fact that I felt like I had to waste a credit to fulfill “Breadth Requirement Category 5: The Physical and Mathematical Universe” annoyed me and I avoided it like the plague. I mean, I’m in Arts and Humanities for a reason…I am not a fan of math and science. I’m probably not that good at math and science at a university level either.
Anyway, the time has come (meaning I want to graduate) so I decided the only two serious options I had were ENG287 H1 The Digital Text (a new course probably created for scientifically-challenged English majors like me) and ABS240Y (a course in its second year, probably created for scientifically-challenged Aboriginal Studies majors like me). I did not even consider any of the other science options as I have heard people taking Astronomy and coming out of the class with pitiful marks. After reading The Digital Text course description and seeing the words “computer-assisted analysis” and “digital programming” flash before my eyes (on my computer of course), I decided to go with ABS240Y because I spend enough time on my computer (cue sad violin music). I recognize now that I made a great choice because this was our classroom on Monday:
Yes, we spent the entire class in High Park, a crown jewel of Toronto’s park system that is home to the black oak savannah.
I’m happy to write that I’ve been pleasantly surprised by my science breadth course requirement despite the fact that it falls on a Monday and includes a three-hour lecture and two-hour evening lab (in a basement if we are not in the great outdoors). I’m sure if Canadian weather and technology would permit it, my instructor, Melanie Jeffrey, would probably hold most labs outside (we’ve also had lectures along Philosopher’s Walk and the DVP).
While I am learning a lot about the tensions, oppositional worldviews and differing approaches between Aboriginal and Western science, I am also learning that I shouldn’t write off a credit because I found math and science a creativity-destroying force in high school. Who knew one could make pesto sauce out of Garlic Mustard that continues to invade and spread itself over the grounds of High Park? And have you ever tasted pine needles, packed with vitamin C, that First Nations peoples showed to European invaders so they would not die of scurvy?
I’ve literally come back from ABS240 and talked to friends about what I’ve learned in class and they say I sound like I’m reciting Colors of the Wind. Yet their reaction shows me that I’m absorbing the information, making use of it and feel excited about science. Science.
I guess my only recommendation would be to not leave your science breadth requirement until your final year and take a science credit affiliated with your field of study. I was petrified that I would be so unfamiliar with the literature we would be studying in class but there has been some crossover with other courses I have taken. It’s actually quite comforting to recognize the name of an author in a class that you thought would be speaking a completely foreign scientific language.
I’ll leave you with some images taken in High Park that will hopefully show you that a science class can actually be fun (we made dirt balls and whipped them into the savannah) and ridiculously beautiful.