Learning Science Through Storytelling

Where and how to start a science story

“Springtime was always the busiest time of the year for the people working at the wool processing factory in Chernihiv, Ukraine,” Ben began. “The workers pulled 12-hour shifts as they sorted the piles of wool by hand,” continued Reilly. “But then they started getting sick.”

The sixth graders’ podcast about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster immediately catches the listener’s attention. It employs a tip they’d picked up from veteran science podcaster Byrd Pinkerton. “I tell the story to a few friends,” said Pinkerton. “I notice where I’m starting. If I’m always beginning at a certain place, that’s probably where the podcast should start.”

Researching topics in groups

Podcasting is an engaging and fun path to deeper learning

All students on Team Tapestry are making podcasts for their final project in a science unit about the structure and properties of matter. Their topics include density and buoyancy, told through the lens of the Titanic, and physical changes in matter, intertwined with a story about glaciers in the Swiss Alps being draped with thermal blankets to protect them from heat.

“We chose podcasting because the process of creating them moves students way past just memorizing science facts,” said Tapestry co-teachers Jesse Weiss and Guy Amdur.

In the recording studio

A few weeks later, groups of students took turns in John Jay’s media production studio, a soundproof space recently outfitted with four professional podcasting microphones and digital audio mixing board.

They had researched their stories using resources in the school library, storyboarded their narratives, written scripts, and gathered or created audio. They were ready to record.

Back to Chernobyl: "How could something like this happen?" asked Reilly. "Well, to understand this, we have to understand the way nuclear power is generated. It is made through a process called nuclear fission," said Ben. 

The sixth grade science reporters were telling an eye-opening story about the properties of matter and, in the process, learning a lot.

sixth grade science detectives