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Storytelling in STEM Education

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, commonly referred to as STEM, are increasingly important fields of study in today’s global landscape. Ideas and innovations are what drive progress, shape the future, and launch societies toward positive change. 

To promote STEM, groups such as the United Nations honor the importance and significance of these fields with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. Dedicating days that highlight the importance of STEM careers and interest in STEM-related topics is paramount in leveling the playing field, which has been heavily dominated by males for decades. 

Much different from STEM is the notion of storytelling. Humans have been passing down stories from generation to generation. “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today,” says Robert McKee, a creative writing instructor. Storytelling can provide support to educators and engage students on ideas in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Why use storytelling in STEM?

Storytelling is how we’ve learned so much about our past. Our ancestors would tell or even sing stories long before the written word developed. Think about a story you read when you were a child. Do you still remember it? If so, why do you think that is? Probably because you had a connection to the story or could relate to the events within the book.

For instance, one of my cherished childhood books is centered on springtime. Remarkably, I still possess this book and enjoy reading it to my daughter. The story unfolds with children strolling through meadows, immersed in the sights and sounds of spring. I felt an instant connection to the little girl depicted in the tale; she seemed just like me. This personal connection deepened my understanding of key springtime themes, such as the emergence of flowers and the onset of warmer weather.

Imagine how powerful storytelling could be within the realm of science. By crafting narratives that captivate our students while discussing crucial scientific concepts, we can ignite their interest and deepen their understanding far beyond what traditional lectures or textbook readings can achieve.

Benefits of using storytelling

Educators can implement the art of storytelling in their daily science lessons with narratives, anecdotes, or first-hand accounts of real-world experiences. This type of teaching strategy engages students by capturing their attention with relatable and interesting tales that are designed to teach them important concepts. By leveraging the art of storytelling, teachers can inspire feelings of curiosity, wonderment, and excitement in the students they teach. 

How to incorporate storytelling into STEM instruction

Let’s take a look at specific examples of how to use storytelling in your elementary or middle school classroom.

With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI), writing  your own narrative using informational texts, current events, or other nonfiction resources has become more accessible than ever. Teachers can now effortlessly craft meaningful and personalized stories in seconds, eliciting emotions from their audiencenamely, their students. Let’s look at the example below. 

Once upon a time, in the vast and dry western parts of North America, lived a magnificent bird known as the prairie falcon. These majestic creatures were the swift rulers of the skies, their keen eyes always on the lookout for their next meal.

Now, imagine you were a small ground squirrel, going about your day, gathering nuts and seeds, when suddenly, you caught sight of a prairie falcon soaring high above. Oh, how your heart would race! Prairie falcons were known for their lightning-fast speed, capable of snatching up small creatures like you in the blink of an eye.

In the summertime, when the sun beat down upon the dry desert land, there were plenty of squirrels for the falcons to chase and feast upon. But when the cold winter months arrived, the squirrels grew scarce, hiding away in their cozy burrows to escape the chill.

With fewer squirrels to hunt, the prairie falcons had to spread their wings and venture farther in search of food. They pursued other birds, like meadowlarks, doves, and quail, their hunger driving them across the vast expanse of the winter landscape.

Notice the distinctions between a conventional nonfiction text and a narrative. For instance, phrases like "Once upon a time," descriptive adjectives such as "vast" and "magnificent," and prompts like "pretend you are" all infuse storytelling elements to captivate readers and encourage them to delve deeper into the text to discover more.

However, storytelling in STEM only works if actual content is included and discussed. Take another look at the story version of “Winter Survival: Prairie Falcon.” Facts such as the location in which prairie falcons live, their diet, and their need to venture farther out to search for food during the winter are included. 

As a student, what type of text would interest you more? Unless you are an enthusiastic fan of nonfiction, you’d probably choose the text with storytelling elements. However, there are numerous effective methods to add storytelling into STEM subjects. 

For example, teachers can choose fiction books that focus on problem solving and perseverance such as The Most Magnificent Thing. Similarly, the book What to Do with an Idea? follows a young child who has an idea but doesn’t have the confidence to share his thoughts with others. 

Science is about struggle, trial and error, and problem solving. If students see and read about others who have struggled and persevered, then they too will gain the confidence they need to engage with subjects in the areas of STEM.

News-O-Matic supports storytelling

News-O-matic supports storytelling by providing students with articles that seamlessly weave story elements and real human experiences into current-event pieces. Our nonfiction texts cover a wide range of STEM topics, ultimately enriching the educational experience.

News-O-Matic can serve as your storytelling companion with its student-centered articles, crafted at multiple reading levels, featuring engaging language and supported with multimedia. Incorporating these articles into your daily or weekly science instruction can help underscore the value and importance of fields related to science.

Below are just a few articles profiling scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and technologists who were recently interviewed and featured by News-O-Matic. Now is the time to encourage your students to explore their interests and consider the exciting possibilities that await them in the world of science and technology.



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