When you hear you’re going to watch a movie related to biology, you might expect another classroom educational video. That’s not the case at Biology Movie Night, where film viewing doesn’t require note taking.
At Movie Night, students and faculty watch mainstream movies such as Gattaca, a science-fiction movie that takes place in a future where babies’ genes are analyzed and discriminated at birth, and discuss the ethical connections between biology and society. The next film will be Jurassic Park, based on the Michael Crichton book about dinosaurs that are brought back with DNA extracted from preserved mosquitoes.
Biology Movie Night is a helpful tool for students both in major and non-major courses.
“It helped practically apply the theoretical knowledge from class,” said post-bac general Biology student Rebecca Clark. “It gives us a chance to bat around ideas about ethics and the practical application of our subject matter.”
Biology is a major influence of popular culture, especially in film themes, according to Chair of the Biology department Lisa Urry and professor Helen Walter.
“Biology is life and connects all of us,” said Walter. “Often we take this for granted and forget to question the world around us. Also, there are many controversial subjects in this field, such as stem cell research [and] genetic cloning.”
“Since biology is a hard subject, we decided that we needed to foster more of a sense of community for students,” said Urry.
To bring people back each month, professors are offering incentives to bring people back in addition to the promise of refreshments.
Biology students are given small writing assignments as extra credit options to foster ongoing discussions. “It provides a connection between the curriculum and the entertainment,” said Urry, who has been encouraging students to publish their thoughts.
Clark said, “Dr. Urry’s been clever to encourage us to post our post-movie watching insights on a site online.”
Biology Movie Night will happen once a month, and students will be given the opportunity to vote for movies shown in the future.