STL 100 -- Scientific and Technological Literacy Program:
Matter, Energy, Life, and Systems

Victor Stanionis
Iona College

In the late 1970s, the Iona College science faculty came to the realization that the science courses offered at the time were not preparing liberal arts and business students sufficiently to confront everyday problems having scientific and technological content. Today, a multifaceted program, Scientific and Technological Literacy (STL), is benefiting students and faculty alike through its integrated approach to scientific literacy. The new core curriculum, interdisciplinary cooperation on the curriculum, high profile lecture series, grant funding, and national recognition have not only addressed science educators' concerns, but opened a new door of working together for Iona faculty -- science and non-science alike.

In May, 1982, a new core curriculum was adopted as a result of the development efforts of the science faculty. All incoming freshmen are now required to take a six-credit sequence in science and technology that emphasizes process over content, while it attempts to build bridges to other areas of the core curriculum. Two 3-credit courses, each with two hours of lecture and two hours of lab per week, work together to enable students to develop approaches to solving problems and making decisions on scientific and technological issues.

After completing the introductory course (STL 100) on Matter, Energy, Life, and Systems, students choose a second course from the five themes: commercial systems (STL 105), environment (STL 115), health (STL 125), energy (STL 135), and computer music (STL 145).

The introductory course on Matter, Energy, Life, and Systems is described in the following. The follow-up courses are described in separate entries in this disk.

STL 100 -- Scientific and Technological Literacy: Matter, Energy, Life, and Systems

This course is designed to develop the foundation for literacy necessary to deal with technology-related problems in a modern society. Basic scientific concepts underlying matter, energy and life are introduced, and students engage in development of reasoning and problem-solving skills characteristic of scientists. The course is an introduction with applications to ecology, human biology and health, energy transformations and systems.


The scientific and technological literacy program was designed

- to bring students to an understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge and the appropriate application of scientific concepts, principles, laws and theories;

- to enable students to utilize the processes of science in solving problems, making decisions, and furthering their understanding of nature and technology;

- to provide students with an understanding and appreciation of the joint enterprises of science and technology and their interrelationships with each other and with other aspects of society; and

- to cultivate within students an awareness and confidence to confront such scientific and technological issues as health, energy and the environment as active and informed participants in society.

Students leaving this course are expected to have practiced and used problem solving techniques, modeling approaches, the systems point of view, and quantitative techniques involving graphing, algebra, and probabilistic reasoning. Students are also expected to have had some practice in making, organizing and recording measurements, and in writing appropriate reports based on observations and hands-on activities. In addition, fundamental concepts such as energy, the cell, atomic and molecular structure, the scientific conservation laws, the genetic code, etc., should be familiar.

The STL curriculum rests on the premise that, even though all cannot be expected to solve complex technical problems, everyone can and should be prepared to participate in the public debate, evaluate the available information, and advance the solution through intelligent questions and informed voting.


All candidates for an undergraduate degree in the School of Arts and Science and the Hagan School of Business are required to complete six (6) credits in Scientific and Technological Literacy (STL). Students may substitute courses in Biology 101-102, Chemistry 109-110, or Physics 101-102 for the STL requirement with permission from the STL coordinator.

Students pursuing a B.S. degree in biological sciences, chemistry, computer and information sciences, computer electronic science, ecology, interdisciplinary science, mathematics, physics and psychology may substitute courses from their degree core for the STL requirement with permission from the STL coordinator.

Students, after successfully completing STL 100 - Matter, Energy, Life, and Systems, choose one of five courses: environment, health, energy, commercial systems, or computer music and thus complete two 3-credit courses for a total of six (6) credits. STL 100 is a prerequisite for the other courses.

Two public STL lectures take place during the semester. Both lectures take place during college activities hours. The topics are announced as soon as the arrangements are confirmed. Students in this course are required to attend and present written reports on the lectures.

 Grading criteria (typical)

 Three 1-hour exams 45%

 Two-hour final 25%

 Laboratory work 20%

 Project work 10%

 Laboratory reports are due one week after completion of the laboratory exercise. No late laboratory reports are accepted without prior permission. Failure to hand in a lab report results in a grade of zero for that lab.

 All lab reports and other written assignments are to be done using a computer word processing program.

 Plagiarism and/or academic dishonesty on exams, laboratory reports etc., result in a grade of zero assigned to the work with no opportunity for a make-up.


A. Class meetings: Regular lectures are held as scheduled, two hours per week. The student is assigned readings and problems concerning the lecture material; as the subject matter is presented, the student is encouraged to ask questions so that a more thorough appreciation of this material may be achieved. Problem sessions are given upon completion of general topics in the lecture as needed.

B. Laboratory: Regular meetings are held as scheduled for two consecutive hours per week. The student performs the assigned laboratory experiments in an acceptable fashion under the supervision of the instructor. In general, a brief laboratory lecture describing the theory and technique of the particular laboratory problem precedes the experiment.

Attendance is required at all activity sessions. The laboratory grade is based on the laboratory reports, required weekly, and attendance at all laboratory sessions.


 1. Introduction: The Place of STL

 2. Problem Solving: Overview, Removing Blocks, Developing a Strategy, Examples

 3. Models & Modeling: Matter in General and Atoms in Particular, the Living Cell

 4. Systems: Overview, Input-Output Concepts, Feedback and Control, Examples

 5. Information and Coding: Binary, Genetic, Bar Codes

 6. Energy: Overview, Conservation Ideas, First and Second Laws, Energy and Life. Examples: Diet, Biological Magnification, Radon Problems, etc.

 7. Interlude: The Themes for STL (Energy, Environment, Health, Commercial Systems, Computer Music) and their interconnections are presented.

 8. Energy and Matter Flows: Living Systems, Environment, Manufacturing

 9. The Carbon Cycle and the Greenhouse Effect

 10. Dynamic Balance and Temperature Regulation: Passive Solar Collectors, the Earth, Thermostatically Controlled Systems, the Human Body

 11. Metabolism and Nutrition

 12. Population and Problems Related to Growth

 13. Perspectives on Problems and Patterns: External Representations and Dimensional Thinking, Patterns in Two Dimensions

 14. Screening and Testing for Health and Safety: General Principles, Probabilities, Societal Values Issues, Importance of Quantitative Reasoning


 Activity 1: Floating and sinking

 Activity 2: Measuring cell size

 Activity 3: The small and the large

 Activity 4: Feedback and control

 Activity 5: Collecting solar energy

 Activity 6: Energy conversions

 Activity 7: Problem solving: measuring temperature with only limited means

 Activity 8: Chemical reactions

 Activity 9: Solar input: a limit to growth

 Activity 10: A metabolic measurement

 Activity 11: Electromagnetic spectra

 Activity 12: Medical screening tests

 Activity 13: Schneider cardiovascular test