An NKS-Based College Level “Experimental” Discovery Seminar

William P. Reinhardt
University of Washington, Seattle

The College of Arts and Sciences at UW has introduced a flock (ca 40) of 4 week intensive, self-contained, and for credit seminar courses, for groups of 20-24 students new to the University. These Discovery Seminars covered topics ranging from “Sex in Seattle” to “Scientific Modeling using Cellular Automata,” this latter being my NKS-based course. The seminars were taught just before these students would normally enroll for a full fall first year course load. The seminars serve two purposes:  they may be imaginative and interdisciplinary, as they are not necessarily part of “departmental” offerings; and, they serve as an excellent and focused way of introducing new freshmen/women to university level studies and expectations.  Students taking the Discovery Seminars out performed their peers in the fall quarter, even after corrections for their “expected” success are factored in.  NKS provided a wonderful and rewarding curriculum for a computer lab-based seminar taught for the first time in the summer of 2003. Essentially all of the NKS text, plus a lot of Mathematica, was covered, except material on general relativity and quantum mechanics. Students were presented with modeling problems and also with many “open and initially rather poorly defined” conceptual questions with which they needed to grapple by choosing and creating structures within which answers “might make sense.” Almost all were able to learn to do so within the context of the A New Kind of Science Explorer CD-ROM programs.  A typical response was, “wow, high school was never like this!”

Created by Mathematica  (April 20, 2004)

Program Outline
Photo Scrapbook

NKS 2007
NKS 2006
NKS 2003