All course information is listed within this syllabus.

HORT 150N: Plants in the Human Context (3 credits). This course provides an introduction to the fascinating and vital relationships between plants and human society. Students will have the opportunity to reflect on their own connection with plants and nature, share ideas with peers, and create a lesson.

Prerequisites: None

HORT 150N fulfills a general education requirement for natural sciences (GN) as well as for social and behavioral sciences (GS).


Instructor For HORT 150N.

Dr. Kirsty Lloyd
Assistant Teaching Professor

Department of Plant Science
102 Headhouse I
University Park, PA 16802

E-mail: Use Canvas Inbox

Course Overview

Plants play a dynamic role in shaping our lives. In reality, human existence on Earth was made possible by the "breath" of plants through photosynthesis. Likewise, our botanical connections and interactions are many: We need plants for food, beverages, medicines, materials, healthy lifestyles, and aesthetics. A handful of plants have also shaped human history. We'll consider the relationship between plants and humans from multiple perspectives, including differences among cultures and change over time.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, you will be able to:

  • Describe basic principles of plant form and function, including the array of chemicals produced by plants, as well as different groupings of plants.
  • Explain how plants have migrated around the world (e.g., apples, potatoes, sugar cane) and give examples of effects on human civilization and ecology.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of technological developments for growing, processing, and storing plants and their products.
  • Consider the importance of labor and land in plant production, with relevance to social and environmental justice.
  • Examine how plants feed and heal us and how we use plants to alter our consciousness.
  • Develop the ability to analyze our relationship with plants from both social and biological perspectives.

Course Outline

Module 1: A Long Affair

Module 2: The Characters

Module 3: Making Light Matter

Module 4: Migration

Module 5: Land

Module 6: Labor

Module 7: Seeds

Module 8: Environment

Module 9: Hunger

Module 10: Healing

Module 11: Thirst

Module 12: Consciousness

Module 13: Beauty

Module 14: Strength

Module 15: Plant-pourri

Course Schedule

For due dates, refer to the Course Summary on the Syllabus page in Canvas.

Course Materials

No textbook is required for the course. All materials will be available via Canvas or e-reserves.

Statement on Language Regarding Race and Ethnicity

Recently, the American Psychological Association (APA), among other stylistic authorities, has recommended capitalizing the terms "black" and "white" as identifiers of the human race to provide acknowledgment of cultural heritage. I recognize that people continually use skin color to make assumptions about a person's attributes and worthiness. Over time, these superficial judgments have collectively manifested as systemic discrimination, including federal and state-level laws that produced persistent, generational inequalities (e.g., racial income and wealth gaps).

I've chosen not to capitalize the physical descriptors "black" and "white" because I want to avoid formalizing superficial appearance as an inherent attribute. Furthermore, there are always shades of grey, so to speak, and these terms ultimately divide us as we move forward.

To guide us into a new future, I've documented history as factually as possible, including the implications of past injustices on the present, such as the enslavement of African people and the appropriation of Indigenous lands.

Grading Policy

The following table is the grading criteria for the course.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Description Weight
Group Discussions (4) Each consists of two to three prompts  40%
Papyrus (15) Private journal, weekly reflections 30%
Final Project (1) Create a gift to share, four parts 15%
Quizzes (14) Multiple-choice, unlimited attempts 10%
Participation Short activities and student feedback 5%
TOTAL: --- 100%

The following table is the grading scheme for the course.

Grading Scheme
Letter Grade Percentage
A 100% – 94%
A- < 94% – 90%
B+ < 90% – 87%
B < 87% – 84%
B- < 84% – 80%
C+ < 80% – 77%
C < 77% – 70%
D < 70% – 60%
F < 60%

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Undergraduate Courses for additional information.

Note: If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. For more information about graduation policies and deadlines, please see "Graduation" under World Campus Student Resources.

Online Students Use of the Library

As Penn State students, you have access to many of the materials that the library offers to students. The library website has a lot to offer but can be overwhelming. A guide has been created to serve as your introduction to important library resources, services, and important pages within the library. The Online Student Library Guide is updated regularly by the online librarian. It is intended to provide a level of comfort through an introduction to help you feel comfortable navigating the library website to find valuable information for your coursework.

Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on World Campus' Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

  • You should have an understanding of basic computer usage (creating folders/directories, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, accessing the internet).
  • You must be able to conduct word processing tasks such as creating, editing, saving, and retrieving documents.
  • You must be able to use a web browser to open web pages, download files, and search the internet.
  • You must be able to use an e-mail program to send and receive messages and to attach and download documents/files.
  • You must be able to download and install programs or plug-ins from the internet.

Getting Help With Canvas Courses

Canvas support is available 24/7 via chat or phone.

It is in your own best interest to be as specific as you possibly can. Try to include information such as the specific course page, quiz question, etc. you were on; what you attempted to do when that failed; the exact language of any error message displayed on your screen; the date and time when your problem occurred; and any other pertinent information (does the problem happen consistently and always in the same way, etc.).

Support Services

As a student, you have access to a variety of services and resources, including advising, tutoring, library services, career services, and more. Please visit the following resources for more information:

Accessibility Information


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and discussion postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Penn State Policies

Login Policy

Students are expected to log in regularly to keep up to date with announcements, discussions, etc. The class will progress at a regular pace throughout the semester and there are specific due dates and times for assignments, etc.

Course Availability

Your course will be available to you beginning the first day of class and will remain open for one year. After one year the course will close.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights, and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others (see Faculty Senate Policy 49-20, G-9 Procedures, and the Code of Conduct).

Please read the academic integrity guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the University's academic integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff, and fellow students expect each student to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity both inside and outside of the classroom.

Educational Equity Statement

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated and can be reported through Educational Equity on the Bias Response page.

Privacy Policies

For information about Penn State's privacy statement and what it encompasses, please read their Web Privacy Statement. Visit Penn State's FERPA Guidelines for Faculty and Staff page for information regarding its rules governing the privacy of student educational records.

Copyright Notice

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor's express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD40, Recording of Classroom Activities and Note-Taking Services, addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University's Code of Conduct, and/or liable under federal and state laws.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being. The University offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings. These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients' cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Accommodations for Persons With Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources page.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus' disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Use of Trade Names

Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.

Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search to start planning ahead.