Storytelling in Science

Photo by Dave Harwood on Pexels.com

Science communication, or #scicomm, is the “practice of informing, educating, raising awareness of science-related topics, and increasing the sense of wonder about scientific discoveries and arguments.” Scicomm can take many different forms that we may see in our daily lives, from science journalism in which stories about scientific topics are written for a non-specialist office, to the journal articles researchers write to share their findings, and even science fiction like the book Jurassic Park, which was written using real molecular biology techniques in a fantastic way (and inspired scientists along the way).

There are many strategies used by science communicators to connect the material with their audience. One technique, storytelling, has been used in many cultures as a way to share knowledge and history from generation to generation. These stories help people connect to material on a more emotional level, which helps people remember and relate to the material. Storytelling techniques are important for science communicators, as they can be used to create narratives that make students, teachers, funders or families care about the research is being performed

One place where science storytelling is incredibly important is in STEM education, particularly in K-12 classrooms. At this phase, students are beginning to form their science identity, which is the way a student views themselves as related to their participation in STEM activities. When teachers tell science stories about a diverse community of researchers who have innovated in the STEM world, particularly those from communities traditionally underrepresented in science, students are better able to visualize themselves as part of the scientific world. It is also important because every STEM student has a story that tells about their introduction to science and their place in the community.

There are many resources to encourage your students to tell scientific stories, either about their science identity or those from history. All of these stories are important in sharing science as a human endeavor, in which everyone can participate.

Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on Pexels.com
  1. This Storytelling Course from Pixar, provided by the Khan Academy, helps students learn the structure of stories in general and what to think about when crafting a narrative.
  2. The Story Collider is one place to hear stories from people currently involved in the scientific community. Many of these stories focus on an aspect of a person’s science identity. You can start with their podcast, available at http://www.storycollider.org/podcasts
  3. For those who want to take a guided online class, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology offers The Art of Science Communication.
  4. Randy Olsen is a biologist and a screen writer who talks about the “And, But, Therefore” system of storytelling. This framework makes it easy to draw connections between the scientist, their science story, and the research that they are performing in a clear and compelling way.
  5. As mentioned in a previous blog post, the unCommission (hosted by @100Kin10) is working to collect student science stories to inform their next steps in setting STEM policy goals. Each story is important, and the more stories collected, the greater impact students can have on shaping STEM learning objectives for the next 10 years. They have created a downloadable, customizable slide deck that you can use to set up the lesson So, if are a STEM educator, and you want your students’ stories told, be sure to get involved with this national initiative! To learn more, visit https://theuncommission.org, or email uncommission@100kin10.org.