Each time I teach Intro Bio I spend time thinking about the Why of the course as a whole and of the different pieces. The fact was driven home to me quite clearly one semester when I had a student of the course stand in the doorway of my office and say “I don’t understand why I need to know all this stuff about cells, I am going to be a doctor”. Talk about a disconnect between the course and their life (my first thought however, was “not my doctor”). Here I thought I was doing a great job of showing them why what we were learning was relevant to them, but I missed the mark with this student. In a course that traditionally is very content driven, it is hard to let go of the content and focus on conveying to the students why they need to understand how living things work at the cellular and molecular level.
Why do they need intro bio and all its content? Simple answer is that we are made of cells and how we function, live, breathe, get sick, age, etc is related to the molecules in our cells. If we can begin to understand ourselves at the molecular level we can begin to understand how we can affect our own lives and the world around us. It is at the cellular level that we share the most with the other living organisms on our planet. Now, to figure out how to share that why with the students.