Students have many opportunities to participate in internships and many of the classes take field trips to locations where students interact with environments and phenomena studied in class readings and discussions.
Several biology classes for majors and general education students can be taken at the Wheaton College Science Station and the Marine Biology class travels to a site in Belize. General education classes are also available at HoneyRock, the "Northwoods Campus" of Wheaton College.
Wheaton College Science Station
The Wheaton College Science Station is located in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. Students can take intensive courses in ecology, plant biology and zoology, where students study ecological systems and the organisms that have domains in them. The diversity of habitats is great, ranging from mixed grass prairies to oak woodlands, pine forests and spruce forests. Taking one course at a time, students are truly immersed in learning about plants, animals, geology, and ecology in the outdoors. A need-based scholarship is available.
During the summer biology faculty teach general education courses at HoneyRock, the college facility in Wisconsin. Students have opportunity to take courses in ecology/environmental science in a less formal outdoor environment that helps them more easily experience and understand the concepts and principles involved in these aspect of biology.
Marine Biology (Belize)
Twenty students along with Drs. Nadine Folino-Rorem, Ray Lewis and Steve Moshier from Wheaton College travel every other year to the islands of South Water Caye off the coast of Belize in Central America. The trip during the March spring break is the laboratory portion of a 4-credit course offered within the Biology and Environmental Studies majors. The lecture portion of the course is conducted on the Wheaton College campus where students are prepared for the field portion where they learn firsthand about marine biology and coral reef ecology. Lectures, snorkel-training sessions in the pool and a trip to Shedd Aquarium allow students to 'hit the water swimming.'
We arrive in Belize City and spend our first night at Pelican Beach Resort in Dangriga, Belize. The bus ride from the airport to Dangriga is full of interesting sites and cultural experiences. We travel through fruit orchards and see nationals living at various income levels. Seeing how people live in a developing country is a growing experience for many of the students. In addition to observing how the lifestyle is different than in the United States, our group is challenged to address issues of stewardship. Many resources we take for granted on campus are not as readily available, like fresh water for drinking and bathing. Conserving fresh water is critical especially on South Water Caye where we depend on rainwater.
After one evening in Dangriga we travel via boat to South Water Caye located miles off the coast of Belize. The first 2-3 days consists of putting real live critters with the names and concepts presented back on the Wheaton College campus. Various habitats are visited such as well-known and studied mangroves by researchers at the Smithsonian Carrie Bow Laboratory right next door. After an in-ocean lab practical, we then begin working in groups on class projects. The research projects are discussed and designed before being conducted in the field. Time is taken to think and critique the proposed group projects. Students then have 2-3 days to collect data. Projects vary from fish behavioral studies to hermit crab mobility and density distributions on the island.
Once students return to the campus, the data are analyzed and posters are created and then presented at ACCA, the Associated Colleges of the Chicago Area, a regional student conference. This provides an opportunity of students to participate in yet another portion of the process conducting collaborative research.
Course Field Trips
Several of the biology classes involve field trips to locations in and around Chicago. They are designed to enable the students to experience, on a first-hand basis, what they are learning in class. The introductory class visits the Morton Arboretum. Other classes also visit the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Garfield Park Conservatory and Dekalb Genetics, a seed production facility.
Both introductory biology courses BIOL 201 Principles of Biology go on field trips to the Morton Arboretum. At the arboretum, students are introduced to general ecological principles in oak and maple forests and a restored tall-grass prairie.
- BIOL 243 Processes of Life. Travel to various forests preserves in the area.
- BIOL 252 Introduction to Biological Research. Model Research Systems: Students travel to the University of Chicago's John Crearar Library - Students in the Sophomore-level course called go as a class to the Crearar library in down-town Chicago in order to do library research for a literature review paper. They are accompanied by a staff member from the Wheaton College library who has expertise in the biological sciences.
- BIOL 341 Plant Physiology. A field trip is taken to DeKalb Genetics Corporation to learn about selecting and producing seed of crop plants, especially corn, for agriculture. An examination of genetically modified crop plants is included.
- BIOL 344 Economic Botany. A field trip is taken to the Field Museum of Natural History and the Garfield Park Conservatory in order to see and learn about plants used for a variety of purposes.
- BIOL 374 Bioinformatics. class visited the Bioinformatics Laboratory at the Field Museum. In addition to having a behind-the-scenes view of the facility including extensive collections not available to the general public they had opportunity to talk with several of the scientists about the work they are doing there.