Take Your Lab and Be Happy Too

photo from covenant.edu

photo from covenant.edu

Coming into Covenant, I was a starry-eyed double major whose sole conversation skills were in the areas of philosophy and theology. Not much has terribly changed there. But what has changed dramatically is my perspective on Covenant’s requirement of a natural science lab.

Just in case you have missed an advising meeting or two, one of the classes you must take in order to graduate from Covenant is a 4 hour science lab, which tends to meet 3 times a week for 50 minute lectures alongside a 3 hour lab. When I learned about this, I became rather disagreeable. Weren’t all of the other required classes enough? Must I also be a scientist alongside my other requirements of being a historian, philosopher, community developer, artist, linguist, etc.? I cursed the system that made me lose another slot for my major specific classes. So, naturally, I waited until my final semester at Covenant to do it.

In this final semester, however, I have discovered how wrong I was about my apathy and reluctance towards the science requirement. The science lab that has made this conversion story possible is Concepts in Environmental Biology (NSC 109) with Dr. Heath Garris. My quickening began the first couple of days into the course as we studied the history of environmental policy in America, as well as climate change, to prepare the class for the Res Publica lectures.

These initial lectures introduced me to this new discipline that did not simply engage the world mentally through research journals, written essays, or long nights in the library poring over books, but sought to understand the dynamics of an environment through controlled and hypothesis-oriented experiments. In a way, every discipline has its own variations of this, but as a philosophy and history double major, my participation in this kind of research has been through theoretical and archival experimentation — not physical experimentation. And from the moment I took my step out into nature for a lab (i.e. the pines behind Barnes Gym), I knew I was terribly mistaken about my initial judgments about this core requirement. Even in this first month, I have grown both in my respect for my scientist friends and professors, and in my appreciation for the beauty of the scientific process.

I think that my initial thoughts about Covenant’s requirement of a science lab were governed by a pragmatic understanding of my college education, and a belief that a lab science would not benefit me in any kind of substantial way. So, although I am attending a liberal arts college, I was not attempting to make full use of it. I am happy to report that I was gravely mistaken. Even in this short time, I have been profoundly shaped to better appreciate not only our natural environment generally, but the work of the scientist within it: a work that I would have never had the opportunity to pursue within my own majors like I have been with the lab requirement.

That said, I do recognize the sizeable core requirements that we have to take at Covenant and how hard it is already to keep up with school. But, at the very least, I want to encourage you to not be a pessimist like I was. Make the most of the money you have worked hard to save to go to this school and take advantage of the multiplicity of learning opportunities offered by professionals in their various fields. Be wise in your core requirement selections, and do your best to make the most of it. In other words, take your lab and be happy, too.