Washington State Magazine

Summer 2002

Summer 2002

In This Issue...


The pull of rowing :: Because rowing is more timing and rhythm than just strength, top athletes sometimes become frustrated. They must learn to be patient and accountable to their teammates. by Pat Caraher

{ WEB EXCLUSIVE–Gallery: Photographs of WSU crew by Robert Hubner }

Is nothing sacred? :: Never heard of C4 photosynthesis? Now you have. It's rare, it's cool, it could help feed the world. And WSU plant scientists just rewrote the textbook on it. by Mary Aegerter

Pants that fit...In search of a cure for misfits :: "The more I sewed," says Carol Salusso, "the more I got frustrated with the fact that the patterns didn't fit me." So she began designing her own. by Andrea Vogt

A Titan's Tale :: Bill Nollan didn't like not understanding. So he drove his athletes and his students ever harder. As if their lives depended on it. by Bill Morelock

Field Notes

Ukraine: Witnesses to an Uncertain Revolution :: How do you offer a reasonable criticism of America's consumer culture to an audience waiting desperately for basic goods that we take for granted? by Paul Hirt

Ukraine: Mining Every Opportunity for Hope :: There are many toasts, to friendship and Ukraine and its women, who maintain what is left of its social fabric. story & photos by Tim Steury



Tracking the Cougars

Cover: Washington State University varsity crew members Dorothea Hunter, Emily Raines, and Jaime Orth bend their backs to the oars on the Snake River. Read the story here. Photograph by Robert Hubner.

John McNamara was named Washington Science Teacher of the Year in higher education in 2001. Two of his students are Andrew Bishop and Jane Nall. Robert Hubner

John McNamara was named Washington Science Teacher of the Year in higher education in 2001. Two of his students are Andrew Bishop and Jane Nall. Robert Hubner

Forcing students to think critically

by | © Washington State University

“Dr. McNamara wants you to take everything you know and figure out the solution on your own.” - Barbara Zawlocki

Rather than being “the expert” in the classroom, animal scientist John McNamara wants to shift that role to his students. Those in his non-ruminant nutrition course at Washington State University are expected to develop an “expert system” with computer program application. They must gather information in his and  other classes, from the library, and on-line. Then they must put the material together in a logical system and teach it to someone else.

The students learn by creating their own data base of information and by sharing their resources with others.

“The fun part for me, and the hard part for them, is that it forces them to be correct. If they’re not correct, the expert system doesn’t work,” says McNamara. Last fall, he was named the state Science Teacher of the Year in higher education for 2001 by the Washington Science Teachers Association. He has been teaching at WSU for 18 years.

Science isn’t complicated if students start using the scientific method early, he says. He asks them to make observations, provide a hypothesis, and test it by literature research experiments. More observations follow, and more interpretations.

McNamara, who also teaches pet nutrition among others courses, spends 55 percent of his time in research, which enhances his teaching. He believes the ideal learning situation is to have an active researcher active in the classroom. “We’ve got the day-to-day activity in science and research and can bring that to our students and involve them in it.”

Aubrey Schaeffer, a senior from Bothell who is advisor to students working with the University dairy herd, aspires to be a veterinarian. She has taken a number of McNamara’s courses.

“He knows nutrition,” she says. He forces students to problem-solve using the knowledge he gives us and what other professors have taught us over the years. He’s the one who puts together all the pieces of our education in the Animal Sciences department.”

In the non-ruminant nutrition course, Schaeffer identified characteristics of plants toxic to horses and matched them with symptoms horses displayed after eating the plants. The task was “pretty complex” she says, but now a valuable resource is available for horse owners to tap.

Classmate Erin Marinan of Everett created a dog vitamin advisory program, taking into consideration the animals’ size, sex, and age and 14 options for the use of Vitamins A, B, and D.

“Dr. McNamara wants you to take everything you know and figure out the solution on your own,” says Silverdale senior Barbara Zawlocki. “Sometimes it is frustrating, but it helps you develop your own critical thinking skills.”

Her project was devoted to weight management of horses.

As an undergrad and graduate student at the University of Illinois, McNamara had the good fortune to work in the laboratory of Professor Dale Bauman, an authority on nutrition. From Bauman, he learned much about the teaching methods he now uses in his own classes at WSU.

“He’s a great scientist, a great teacher,” he says of Bauman, now a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

McNamara’s best students today are better than ever, he says. They are getting more advanced science in high school. They are willing to work hard and try new things.

“The challenge is that most students don’t have a lot of experience. They don’t have to work like we did, or they didn’t grow up on a farm. It’s hard for them to put science into a practical context,” he says.

“That’s what I try to help them with.”

Categories: Education | Tags: Animal nutrition

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