Review: Science Through Stories

Science Through Stories: Teaching Primary Science with Storytelling by Jules Pottle and Chris Smith PhD reviewed in Facts & Fiction no. 96 by Neil Ruckman and Jennie Reed. Neil is an educationalist and storyteller and Jennie is assistant headteacher and Science coordinator at Underhill School and Children’s Centre. Many thanks to them for their hard work! The following is an edited extract: to read the full review, follow the link at the foot of the page.

cover of Science Through Stories

Sitting down to draw our thoughts together on this great resource book, I re-read the last Facts & Fiction and came across this from Martin Murrell’s letter, ‘storytelling is used by all good teachers of all subjects – and always will be.’ Spot on for this book.

The book is aimed at primary level (although I could imagine some of the topics could be used in year 7 at secondary schools and by special needs providers) and covers the three science disciplines. 24 topics are provided and there is at least one story for each topic. From a teacher’s point of view the use of storytelling helps make sense of scientific concepts without oversimplifying them. In particular we felt it will make science appeal to boys and girls equally by encouraging teachers to think outside the box when teaching science.

A particularly good example of this is the Chemistry chapter about the Uses of Materials with The Fairy Godmother’s Day Off as the story (a comic alternative Cinderella story). The comedy of the story and the allusion to a well-known story make it very appealing. Having strong female characters in the story will engage girls who are often less confident scientists than boys. The activities suggested are very hands on – a treasure hunt to find materials and investigations to test the strength of materials. These will really capture the children’s imaginations and enable them to achieve the learning objectives regardless of their ability level. The activities can easily be adapted or extended.

As a storyteller, I was impressed with the range of stories. They include folk tales, real life stories (eg Edward Jenner and the smallpox vaccine), mythology, fantasy, poetry and Jack stories. The stories are often funny and allowed to remain brutal when appropriate.

There are two clear reasons to consider purchasing this book, particularly if you tell stories in schools as many of us do. Firstly you will have some great stories at your disposal. Secondly, it provides a fantastic model and guide for integrating stories into specific areas of the curriculum. The approach taken can be applied to any subject and indeed links with other subjects are suggested. I am already thinking about how to use The Pedlar’s Dream for History, Geography, RE and I am sure there is a numeracy link in there somewhere…

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