Biology 343 – Plants and People

Course Description:

I teach this course in the summer session. I developed and teach both lab and lecture. It is challenging as it is intensive, and the students come from a diversity of backgrounds (arts, education, human kinetics, biology, chemistry, physics). There is no prerequisite, but it is assigned science and lab credit for many programs (including biology). The students learn the fundamentals of botany (plant anatomy and morphology, taxonomy, some aspects of secondary metabolism) in the context of plants that play important roles in human history. The course is a little different each time it is taught. On the first day of class I hand out cards for the students to write down what they would like to learn about and expectations of the course. A few days later they must select a project topic. I use this information to develop the lectures with their interests in mind and how it will complement their projects. The student projects consist of a written paper and a presentation to the entire class.

Course Information and Artifacts:

The following documents are in pdf format.
Syllabus and Intro
- includes readings, exam outlines, instructions for term project (and examples)
Activites – Guide
Work-Along Lecture Handout – sample
- for topics that are complicated work-along handouts help students process the content
TA Prep Session – sample
Lab Quiz – sample
Lab Exam – Part I
- station format (5 stations, 12 miutes each)
Lab Exam – Part II
- a problem in which students use techniques and stains they have learned about in lab
Lecture Final Exam

Course Website:

The Biology 343 website is intended as a supplement to the course.  It is a place where students can view pictures of preparations seen in lab, review course objectives, and study questions.


I am responsible for all aspects of this course including lecture and lab development.  Fresh plant material essential for the presentation of the labs for this course.  I also have developed a collection of demonstration materials.

Lab/Course Materials:

This course has a very rich lab.  The materials include living, fresh, and preserved specimens as well as demonstration material of various sorts.  The fresh material is obtained from a number of sources: UBCFarm, Totem Field Food Garden, Botanical Garden, UBC Farm Agroforestry trail, UBCFarm Medicinal Garden.  Bacterial cultures (for antibiotic assays) and plates are ordered fro the first year biology technicians.  Sample of Lab Manual (Lab 4).


There are a number of fieldtrips: Pacific Spirit Park, Botanical Garden, UBC Arboretum (student-led fieldtrip), Chinatown (including Dr. Sun Yet San Garden, Taoist temple, and markets), and UBC Museum of Anthropology. Early in the term I have a librarian from Woodward Library give the students an orientation on how to research their term paper (many of the students do not know how to do library research).

Pacific Spirit Park Fieldtrip Hand-out
Chinatown Fieldtrip Hand-out
Link to Biology 343 Fieldtrip Page

Class Activities:

There are a number of activities done during lab and lecture. Some are demonstration style (anthocyanin vs betalain test) while others are done as a class (Scoville Heat Test, Antibiotic Assay).

Course Activities
- a summary of all activities done in lecture and lab
Spices from the Kitchen
- students were asked to bring a list of 8 spices from their kitchen and indicate for what type of cuisine it is used.
Class Results of Antibiotic Assay

Teaching Goals:

Biology 343 is a course that offers students a wide range of experiences.  I want the students to become more aware of plants and different cultures.  The topic is so overwhelming that I think it is important that they get the opportunity to pursue what they find particularly interesting.

Course Reflections:

The students are generally very enthusiastic and satisfied with the what they gain from the course.  The students appreciate the exploratory nature of the course. They examine plants and plant qualities that impact their life as well as their ancestors lives’. In the lab they gain hands-on experience.  The antibiotic assay (Lab 7) is especially rewarding for them as they get to test a selection of plant preparation for their activity against bacteria.   The Day to Dye for was a great success.  The incorporation of madder dyeing worked well.  Next year we may try some mordanting.  The student presentations are peer reviewed.  In the past I have asked the students to think about the criteria for evaluation and apply it.  Next year I think it is worth having the class as a group discuss what the criteria should be prior to the presentations and then applying them.

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