A Kids Cosmos

The power of storytelling in opening kids minds to STEM

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I am just barely old enough to remember the original 1980 PBS television series Cosmos:A Personal Journey. I don't remember much from that time, other than the image of Carl Sagan, and how much in awe I was of the stories he told. My interest in science likely began there - in the living room of my parent's first apartment. 

In 2014 when I learned that Cosmos would re-envisioned, and this time hosted by a personal hero, Neil deGrasse Tyson, I knew that I needed to share that experience with my own children. Convincing them to put away their video games, mobile devices, and You Tube videos to watch an hour long show about science wasn't easy. But something special within the program captured their often scattered attention spans. 

Maybe it was the svelte voice of Mr. deGrasse Tyson, or the beautiful animation style, or the dramatic storytelling. Or maybe it was simply the power and wonder of the universe - but my kids instantly fell in love with the program. Much the same way I had thirty years earlier. It was amazing to see their perception of the world, and the universe, become infinitely larger.

Thinking about my family's experience with Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey and the impact it had on us made me wonder about the power of storytelling in promoting STEM.

It  also made me wonder about the "cosmos" of my own kids lives. The tiny sphere of influence they each live within. A sphere not much larger than the distance they can see with their own eyes or touch with their own hands. 

Might storytelling help us grow that sphere?

Might STEM be the tool to make those stories tangible and turn them into real experiences?

[Optional] Synthesize a little! In one sentence, describe something you learned from your empathy exercises or analogous research.

How might Storytelling help us grow our students appreciation of STEM, and how might STEM make those stories into real experiences?


Join the conversation:

Photo of Erin Quinn

This also really reminds me of the Power of 10 video from Charles and Ray Eames: https://dschool.stanford.edu/groups/k12/wiki/faf1d/Powers_of_Ten.html

I love the idea of focusing on storytelling. Check out Day 4, from the dhometeam here: http://www.dhometeam.stanford.edu/arc-1/

Photo of Jessica Lura

As someone who participated in that day, one of the most useful "resources" was the book "Made to Stick" (http://heathbrothers.com/books/made-to-stick/) --great read.

Photo of Chris Good

we are kindred spirits!!!  Made to Stick is an awesome book! Did you know they had a followup called "Teaching that Sticks"? I've not read it. but it looks cool.

Photo of Chris Good

Whoa, there is sooo much good stuff at the dhometeam site. Thanks so much for that Link!

Photo of Erin Quinn

Right, Chris Good !?!?! I've borrowed so many great ideas from the dhometeam. 

Photo of Jessica Lura

No, I had no idea. Mind blown. Now I have to figure out how to make some time to read it ;)

Photo of Michael Schurr

Oh dude, I just LOVE your post!!! It is hitting all the right buttons.  There really is nothing better than good storytelling. Your post makes me wonder what elements are necessary to capture children and adolescence attention. IS it the way the story is delivered? Is it the persons delivering the story? What about the content? Is it accessible? Relatable? Can I see myself in this?  I wonder if you could interview your kids and see what it was about that show that truly captured their attention and imagination. Have you seen any change in your kids? Like do they have a new passion for outer space, engineering, etc. ?

When you say, "It also made me wonder about the "cosmos" of my own kids lives. The tiny sphere of influence they each live within. A sphere not much larger than the distance they can see with their own eyes or touch with their own hands," all I can do is think about my own kids.  What a awesome way to think about our children. 

My brain is buzzing right now! I can't wait to see what we can do with this in the idea phase!!!!

Photo of Jessica Lura

Fun thoughts, Chris and Michael! It made me think about a "recent" physics movie I saw. Particle Fever (http://particlefever.com/) is a physics movie that tells the story of scientists & because of that is super accessible to students (at least high school & middle). It's a documentary, produced by a  physicist, directed by a former physicist, and edited by Robert Murch.
It follows the path of a bunch of scientists at CERN & the launch of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) --it uses animations to explain physics & makes the physicists relatable. One of the post-docs in the film is a young woman and her role really resonated with younger women (which comes up when you watch interviews with the producers and "cast").

Fabulous example of how storytelling allows us way to connect with others.

Photo of Chris Good

Loved Particle Fever! one of my favorites on Netflix! I had no idea however that it was produced and directed by a former physicist. I wonder if that's why the story resonates so strongly - the filmmakers were truly embedded in the subject.

I wonder what would happen if STUDENTS made their own movie about their STEM experience each semester?

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Totally going to ask my kids about it this weekend! Stay tuned!

Photo of Erin Quinn

I'm so interested to hear what your students say!

Photo of Jessica Lura

Awesome! I would love to see those movies :)

Photo of Michelle Fontenot

Interesting perspective! Cultivating a sense of wonder about the world we live in at an early age surely contributes to the desire to investigate the "why" in the classroom. 

Photo of Erin Quinn

I posted on someone else's post about Radiolab and what an amazing job they do of storytelling about science, amongst other topics (http://www.radiolab.org/). I listened to an episode today called From Tree to Shining Tree, about how under the roots in a forest lies a huge connected network of fungi, which do way more to keep trees healthy and connected than we ever would have thought. So fascinating!

I think this could really also serve as inspiration for your stories about science, and could even apply across mediums to video, etc.