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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Brandon Dearmond Finley
B CUSP 116
Bothell Campus

Discovery Core II: The Natural World

Addresses an important social issue through an interdisciplinary perspective; builds creative and critical skills of writing, analysis, and quantitative reasoning; and explores, through scientific methods, one aspect of the natural world. Offered: W.

Class description

This course is built around the theme of chemistry and its application to cooking. We will cover chemistry that is useful in the kitchen as well as how you can use chemistry to improve your cooking. We also cover the chemistry of different cooking techniques, tools, and common ingredients. Although the main topic will be chemistry and cooking, we will also examine broader food issues including nutrition and health, social uses of food, and food safety.

This course is the second in a 3-course sequence that introduces students to the university environment. In this course the focus is on research and research writing. You will learn how to ask a research question, find source of information, and use those sources of information as evidence to reach a conclusion. The skills you practice here will be used in your upper division major courses - critical thinking, reading comprehension, research, evaluating information, logic, and evidence-based writing.

Student learning goals

Students should be able to explain some of the fundamental chemistry that occurs while cooking- energy transfer, the Maillard reaction, the role of water, salts, and flavor compounds, etc.

Students should be able to explain, discuss, and provide examples of the benefits of various cooking techniques and methods.

Students should be able to examine a recipe and discuss why certain ingredients are used or why certain techniques are used. This could include looking at a dish and figuring out how to reproduce it or take a list of ingredients and create a specific dish without being given a recipe.

Students will be able to discuss, explain, and understand the complex relationship between food and society. This includes the role food plays in social interactions, the economics and politics of food, and the role food plays in nutrition.

Use high quality research skills - frame good questions, find and use high quality sources, make defensible claims, reach logical conclusions, argue persuasively from information, critically analyze information.

General method of instruction

The course is a roughly even mixture of lecture, in-class work, small group discussions, and observation/experimentation. Lectures are used as little as possible and primarily to provide definitions, examples, or diagrams. In class work consists of both group and individual work. This work is geared toward reinforcing concepts, practice with the material, or making observations. There will be lots of questions to get you to think about the material, plenty of opportunities for discussion and debate, and opportunities to watch, smell, and taste the chemistry.

Recommended preparation

There are no prerequisites. An interest in cooking will help. No chemical knowledge is necessary. This course uses a lot of written communication. The course will teach you how to write using an evidence-base style, but it will be helpful if you have mastered basics such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Class assignments and grading

Assignments come in several forms:

Weekly assignments - These come in two forms. There are multiple choice questions that will be submitted and graded electronically, and will focus on basics- definitions, concepts, and the reading. There are also weekly worksheets that are linked to the reading.

Bi-weekly question sets - These are short answer and essay style questions that require you to write detailed answers. These will focus on applying the chemistry and cooking techniques to new situations and will require you to critically think about and analyze information or situations.

Biweekly quizzes - these quizzes test your individual understanding and progress. They are a mixture of questions - short answer, true/false, multiple choice, etc. They are designed to take ~20 minutes and focus most heavily on the basics, not esoteric facts or random tidbits.

In-class work- These are activities designed to reinforce or practice conceptual material. They will be experimental, written, or discussion based assignments.

There are two larger projects:

Presentation - A three minute presentation discussing the science of a particular food or dish that you will prepare for the class.

Research paper - The research paper is the heart of the course. You will research and write about a food-related topic that you choose. The paper will focus on two things- the science of your topic and the social issues surrounding your topic. The paper will be peer reviewed and you will have the opportunity to revise it at least once. The paper will be turned in as part of your final.

Everything is worth points and the total percentage of points you get determines the final GPA. 95% or more of the points is a 4.0. Every 1% lower is 0.1 lower on the GPA scale. This means that a 62% is the minimum grade (0.7) and anything below 62% is a 0.0.

Weekly homework is worth one point per question. Bi-weekly question sets are graded on a three point scale with 3 being high quality and correct, 2 for minor mistakes, 1 for major mistakes, and 0 for no effort. The research paper draft and final will be graded with a detailed rubric and the rubric value converted to a 100 point scale. All writing is graded on quality, persuasiveness, accuracy, and depth of thought. Quizzes are typically 30 points each, with each question worth 2-3 points.

Because of the significant time and effort for some items compared to others, I use a weighting system. The research paper (including all of its parts spread over the entire quarter) is weighted as 40% of the total grade. The presentation is 10%, biweekly quizzes are 20%, weekly homework (on-line + worksheets) is 10%, biweekly homework is 10%, and the in-class assignments are 10%. Quizzes are weighted slightly heavy in this scheme because they are done individually while most other things can be done in groups. This emphasizes your individual understanding of the course rather than reliance on others.

In-class work is usually graded as ++/+/0, with ++ being complete and detailed, + being finished but lacking detail or effort, and 0 being incomplete.

Partial credit is always awarded when possible. There are no extra credit assignments.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Brandon Dearmond Finley
Date: 10/11/2013