Introductory courses in the STEM field generally offer a very broad introduction to the field as a whole, and are likely to contain both a theory and lab component (often larger lecture classes break out into small lab sections under a TA or co-instructor). Introductory science courses, which often have course titles such as “General Chemistry I,” “General Physics I,” or “Biological Foundations,” familiarize students with the objectives, methods, history, and language of the field and serve as prerequisites for the discipline’s next set of courses (“General Chemistry II,” General Physics II,” etc.). Since science courses generally require a more precise set of pre-acquired skills and knowledge, they often follow a stricter trajectory of prerequisites. Even introductory courses, such as Calculus I or Algebra I, might require students to take a pre-calculus or pre-algebra course if they haven’t taken such courses in high school or do not meet a minimum score on a placement test. Many introductory science courses are as oriented towards non-majors as towards majors, and possess the goal of nurturing in their students an understanding of various approaches to the sciences that can be useful knowledge no matter what field one goes on in.

Similarly, students enrolling in intermediate science courses most likely have had to take prerequisite courses in the same field, yet, again, this does not mean that all that information is still readily available (we all know what a long summer break does to our brains). Reviewing and reinforcing material from previous courses does very well at this stage, as does further practice in research, especially when empirical evidence and lab work is at the core of the discipline. Students in the sciences generally take a few courses from across the different disciplines–a chemistry student might also take a few courses in computer science, for example, and a biology major might take courses in physics and kinesiology. It can be great to bring these skills into your classroom: allowing your students to combine disciplines in a longer research project, for example, will boost their engagement and make it easier for them to find their specialty going into the upper level courses.

Upper level science courses continue to bolster students’ knowledge and research skills while also familiarizing them with their field’s conventions for sharing and possibly publishing their results. Exposure to interesting or current research (bringing in a recent publication from a major journal, for example) is a great way to connect your students’ work to recent developments in the field, and projects that ask students to find solutions to real-world problems are an ideal way to bridge the gap between the college classroom and the world outside. Ideally, you want to make your students’ work relevant and applicable at all times, by designing such “real-world scenarios” and problem-solving assignments, for example, but doing so at this stage of your students’ careers is especially important. Often, students majoring in the sciences complete Individual Study or a Capstone/Thesis project with one or several faculty members before graduating, for which they read a number of key publications in their (sub-)field and complete an individual research project.

Sample Student Trajectories

A Math Major @ Brooklyn College

Intro: MATH 101 Problem Solving for College Mathematics
MATH 120 Calculus I
MATH 120 Calculus II

Intermediate: MATH 210 Linear Algebra I
MATH 220 Multivariable Calculus
MATH 200 Transition to Advanced Mathematics
MATH 310 Abstract Algebra I
MATH 350 Introduction to Probability and Statistics

Upper level: MATH 420 Advanced Calculus I
MATH 410 Linear Algebra II
MATH 410 Abstract Algebra II
MATH 450 Probability
MATH 500 Independent Study

A Biology Major @ Queens College

Intro: BIO 105 General Biology: Physiology and Cell Biology
BIO 106 General Biology: Life Forms and Ecosystems
CHEM 114 General Chemistry I
CHEM 115 General Chemistry II
CHEM 102 Basic Organic Chemistry
MATH 151 Calculus I

Intermediate: BIO 285 Principles of Genetics
BIO 287 Principles of Evolutionary Biology
BIO 230 Biostatistics
BIO 245 Evolution and Culture
BIO 251 Genetics Laboratory

Upper level: BIO 350 Molecular Genetics
BIO 352 Anthropological Genomics (cross-listed with Anthropology)
BIO 585 Genetics (Graduate course open to upper level students)

An Environmental Science Major @ Lehman College

Intro: ENV 210 Introduction to Environmental Science
ENV 211 Introduction to Environmental Science Laboratory
ENV 235 Conservation of the Environment
ENV 255 Regional Topics and Field Methods in Environmental Sciences
ENV 270 Environmental Pollution

Intermediate: ENV 326 Environmental Policy
ENV 330 Environmental Impact Assessment

Upper level: ENV 420 Natural Resource Management: Senior Seminar

Resources and Sample Materials
Coming soon!