Staff Picks: Best Classes To Fill Your Natural Science Gen Ed Requirements
Fall scheduling season is officially upon us, and it’s time to start planning for another semester of #grinding — actually at Penn State, we hope. Satisfying general education requirements can be one of the most daunting tasks in the quest to be a well-rounded student. Natural Science credits (or, GN credits) can be some of the hardest to fill whether you like science or not.
If you are stressing about finding filling a GN credit, fear not. Our staffers have some recommendations to ensure that you actually learn something while not dreading class for a whole semester.
Alysa Rubin: Anth 197-F
As both a GN and a GS, this course is great as an inter-domain. The topic, which is family ancestry, is very interesting, and you get to learn a lot about evolution, human migration, and if you choose to, where you’re from via an ancestry test. You also get to do research on your family, and build your own family tree, which can be a cool find to show your family when you’re home.
Lindsay Tagliere: FRNSC 100
Intro to Forensic Science is the easiest three-credit GN you can possibly take. It’s an online class, and all of the exams are administered through Canvas. My professor’s exam policy was that they were “open note, open internet, but not open friend,” so all of the resources you’ll possibly need are at your fingertips for exams and assignments.
It covers ballistics, blood spatter analysis (Dexter, anyone?), autopsies, and a whole host of other aspects of forensic science and is one of my favorite GNs I’ve taken. FRNSC 100 over CHEM 110 any day.
Matt DiSanto: GEOSC 10
GEOSC 10 is by far my favorite gen ed I’ve taken at Penn State so far. Known officially as Geology of the National Parks, GEOSC 10 takes students through virtual tours of many United States National Parks, including the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, to learn geoscience topics such as plate tectonics, volcanism, and, of course, rocks and minerals.
The class is offered purely online, which makes it great for traversing the country from the comfort of your own bed. The instructor, Richard Alley, provided students with plenty of fun resources to help remember course content, including recordings of him singing parodies of songs that covered course content (personal favorite: a rendition of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” that revolves around seismology). The class is also *quite* easy, and the only assignments are weekly quizzes and occasional labs. The latter are actually pretty cool, though! One lab asks students to use concepts they’ve learned in class to find out how old Nittany Valley is. Even if you’re a geoscience n00b, GEOSC 10 is definitely worth a shot.
Ryan Parsons: ASTRO 1
Astro 1 might not be the automatic-A you’re looking for, but it’s still a fairly easy course, and is actually very interesting. Despite a handful of people thinking it was about astrology, the class basically covers all the planets in the solar system and a handful of other interesting phenomena in the universe.
I took it with Randall McEntaffer, who is a super cool dude and actually sends real rockets into real space. Although he’s intelligent, he still simplifies the material enough for everyone to understand and makes it interesting. He also is very thorough in going over what you need to know for the final, which made up for it being in the Pollock Testing Center (which I actually think is great, but many others hate with a passion.) All in all, ASTRO 1 blends together actually interesting material with a lighter course load.
Lauren Wysseier: BISCI 3
BISCI 3 was my first-ever class as a Penn State student. I remember walking in with the first-day jitters, expecting to sit through an environmental science lecture. Oh, was I wrong! All expectations that I had about this class were completely wrong, in the best way possible. Soon enough, BISCI was my favorite class, and I actually was excited to attend lectures.
During the lab portion, my group got so close to one another that at the end of the semester I was beyond sad to say goodbye to this special group. To make a long story short, BISCI provided me with an incredible opportunity to become more in touch with myself within the context of my environment. There are no formal exams, but students are graded based upon a journal they keep. If you’re looking to take a GN unlike any other, definitely take BISCI 3.
Ryen Gailey: GEOSCI 40
GEOSCI 40 was the GN credit I took that was definitely the easiest for me. The class is taught by Chris Marone in Thomas 100, and was composed of some different elements that made it really engaging, as well as easy to succeed in. The homework assignments are easy to do if you complete while following the lecture slides, the online assignments are really easy to find the answers for, and for both of these, you receive more than one attempt, so a 100% is almost guaranteed. The exams are taken in the Pollock Testing Center which I did not particularly enjoy, but the final is actually optional, and there are plenty of chances for extra credit in the class to boost your grade.
Chris Marone is also an accomplished professor who really cares about the environment and will absolutely get you to feel the same way by the end of the semester. If the topic itself of your GN is more important to you than the class structure, learning about oceans, sea life creatures, along with earthquakes and other things was actually quite interesting, especially since it was taught by someone as knowledgable as Marone. Although you should double-check with your advisor on this, GEOSCI 40 actually also counted as a science lab for me without there actually not being any lab component, so that was super convenient, and a lucky little trick I found.
Michael Tauriello: GEOG 6N
This course, while it can be tedious at times, can actually be quite interesting (and even practical). Most of the time on Monday and Wednesday lectures, you’re learning about the software, the history, and the “why” behind what cartographers do. Lectures weren’t always the most riveting part of the class, but they weren’t necessarily boring lectures. At some point in the week, you have a lab component of the class, where you’ll either work on an assigned lab for the week, or you’ll work on a larger project, which normally comes later in the semester.
The labs are usually self-explanatory. The projects are usually a bit more open-ended, but as long as you think outside the box and make the projects fun for yourself, you’re good to go. It wasn’t the easiest GN I’ve ever taken, you do have to put forth some effort and the midterm does require a bit of memorization of the lecture material, but it wasn’t anywhere near the difficulty of CHEM 110. Plus, you get three inter-domain credits to sweeten the deal. Good course!
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About the Author
As a Penn State student sorely missing Happy Valley, its people, and its iconic style, I took it upon myself to recreate iconic Penn State outfits that remind me of home.
Cael Sanderson may only tweet whenever he pleases, but he’ll always be a Twitter legend.
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