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Review: Science Through Stories

This wonderful review appeared in the fantastic Montessori International Spring 2016 edition. Many thanks to them.

Science Through Stories: Teaching Primary Science with Storytelling by Chris Smith and Jules Pottle – Reviewed by Sue Briggs 

This is another magical title in ‘Storytelling Schools’ series, this time using stories as springboards for primary science projects. Chris Smith, the founding director of Storytelling Schools co-authors this title with Jules Pottle, who is an experienced primary science co-ordinator and specialist science teacher (and also a keen actor and director).

Together they have collected a range of fascinating stories – a mix of traditional tales, poetry and real life histories – to be used to launch biology, chemistry and physics topics for primary children. Each story is carefully adapted and retold to provide a fictional backdrop to give context to scientific themes.

The stories are grouped in topics and graded in difficulty, giving teachers easy access to the level of interest and skill of their group.

Biology themes include habitats, ‘Mummy, Can I Have a Penguin?’, caring for the environment; a traditional tale ‘The Drop of Honey’ and ‘The Birds and the Forest Fire’ and the life story of Edward Jenner for health and germs.

Chemistry stories include ‘The Children of the Water God’ for the water cycle, ‘The Trojan Horse’ for properties of materials, and Mary Anning’s story for fossils and geology.

Physics themes include ‘The Giant and the Turnip’ for Forces, the beguiling ‘The Bat who learned to Click’  for sound, echolocation and adaptation through evolution, and the story of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission for space travel, orbits, gravity and the moon.

Montessori teachers used to working with an interconnected curriculum will see immediately how these stories would enhance activities and offer a route into scientific exploration for those children more comfortable with a literacy approach.

Ways to work with each story to inspire imagination, additional scientific facts, additional reading and links to other curriculum areas are included after each story. Amplified source notes and a comprehensive index make this a tremendously useful and effective resource for busy teachers.

There is a detailed reminder of the authors’ favourite and recommended way of telling and improvising stories together, ‘Hear Map Step and Speak’ (HMSS), which neatly incorporates different learning styles and helps children remember the process. Most stories have repeated sequences and although devising actions for some of the more tricky scientific processes would be challenging this is undoubtedly an effective mechanism to capture children’s interest and ensure learning is understood, embedded and fun.

I’ll leave the last words to the fabulous Pie Corbett: ‘Without science we are lost. Without story we are trapped alone in the darkness of ourselves. For too long, these companions have travelled on different tracks. This book takes one positive step forwards to bringing them together as travelling companions.’

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