Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM


CARTER, Bruce Alan, Natural Sciences Division, Pasadena City College, 146 Highland Place, Monrovia, CA 91016,

From 1993 through 2005 the team-taught Baja Science Program at Pasadena City College enrolled about 500 mostly non-major students in 20 trips. After 105 hours of classroom work at the college, students spent 16-21 days doing fieldwork in Mexico, including stays at 3 field stations and several primitive campsites. Paired courses were either physical geology/field biology or physical oceanography/marine biology, and provided an opportunity to complete all lower division general education science transfer requirements in one semester. Many students enrolled specifically because this was a non-traditional program.

Students were expected to read substantial parts of the textbooks before starting and typically attended class 8 hours a day at the college (including hand specimen identification of about 40 minerals and 60 rocks). Performance during this high intensity period was not very good (somewhat poorer than in regular classes), and a few dropped out before the trip. In the field however, they were required to begin work early in the morning and often continued until late at night. Field stations and campsites away from towns and other distractions forced students to focus on their work. In the field most caught up and stayed current with their work, and the ultimate success rate was noticeably higher than that of similar students in traditional classroom courses.

Most students responded well to the long hours, physically demanding tasks (kayaking, snorkeling, climbing volcanoes, long hikes) and high-level expectations. A focus on recording data, good descriptions and sketches, analysis and written reports in field notebooks led to strong participation and competition to produce superior work. An emphasis on writing and the participation of English instructors was a feature of some trips that included substantial research papers. A few trips included music, anthropology or bioinformatics instructors who brought their disciplines into the curriculum. The Baja Science Program demonstrates the value of place- and theme-based learning in enhancing learning in non-science majors as well as prompting some of them to change to a science major.