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Teaching Science With Stories

Science involves questioning the world around us to find out how and why things work. Storytelling offers a unique opportunity to infuse narrative into science curriculum design and development. When combined, these two seemingly unrelated subjects can produce excellent results.

When a science teacher reads a story to the class, students can connect the story to important science concepts. This can help the students’ imagination soar, opening them to new concepts and ideas.

Teachers can blend science and stories in two ways:

  • Tell the story, then identify elements of the story that relate to science concepts.
  • Explain a science concept, then find a story to illustrate it.

Two Tips for Finding an Appropriate Story

  1. To select an appropriate story, make sure that it is not too long or complicated. Students should be able to identify the important elements and summarize the story easily.
  2. Look for stories that contain problem-solving or physical properties that relate to science concepts.

When the class engages in hands-on learning, the teacher can encourage the students to make discoveries. Using the scientific method, the class may make a hypothesis, discuss which problem-solving approach might work best and then try different experiments. Finally, students will draw conclusions about their findings. When they complete the experiment or science lesson, the students can relate the results back to the story.

The following is a sampling of short stories that work well with classroom science experiments and hands-on learning activities.

Metamorphosis, Frogs

How the Frog Lost Its Tail

The Sky God gives Frog a beautiful tail but takes it away again when Frog breaks his promise to share water from the Sky God’s well with the thirsty animals.

Activity: Read and research metamorphosis from egg to tadpole to adult frog.

Chemical Change

The Stonecutter

This Japanese tale is about a man who wishes to be a prince, a king, the sun, a rain cloud, a mountain and then back to a stonecutter again.

Experiment: Take two test tubes, fill each 1/3 full of distilled water. Add a spoonful of sodium carbonate to one tube and a spoonful of Epsom salts to the other. Shake and observe. Then slowly pour the contents of one test tube into the other and watch what happens.

Surface Tension, Bubbles

Black Bubblegum

In this story, a Halloween treat comes back to haunt Tommy.

Experiment: Combine 1/2 cup liquid detergent, 1-2 tablespoons glycerin and 5 cups cold water. Using a drinking straw, blow bubbles of different sizes on different surfaces. Blow bubbles within bubbles to see how long they last.

Astronomy

Why the Sun and Moon Live in the Sky

Sun tries to build a house big enough so Water and all his relatives can visit.

Activity: Discuss the various forms of water: oceans, puddles, streams, rivers and raindrops. Select students to play the parts of Sun, Moon and Water. The teacher can narrate the story and feed dialog to the principle characters. The rest of the class becomes Water’s relatives. As the house becomes crowded, Sun and Moon climb on step stools or chairs to stay above the water.

Vivid storytelling and hands-on learning give meaning to science concepts by opening a child’s mind, arousing curiosity and encouraging a desire to explore new possibilities.

Learn about the UT Arlington M.Ed. in Science Education online program.


Sources:

Slate: A Novel Way to Teach Kids About Engineering

Storytelling and Science — What a Concept


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