As a sophomore in high school, I paid 50 cents for an old book called The Story of Biochemistry at a flea market. It may sound like an odd pleasure-reading choice for any teenage girl, and particularly one like me, who called chemistry class “the bane of my existence.” Perhaps it was the pairing of the loathed subject with the word “story” that enticed me. In any case, the book lived up to its promise. I read it quickly and with excitement. I loved learning the stories behind the most important scientific discoveries of our past, which meant, of course, feeling their significance. I told my parents, “I would like chemistry if our textbook was like this.”
Making science classes more “like that” is also the suggestion of a recent Scientific American blog post, To Attract More Girls to STEM, Bring More Storytelling to Science. Its authors, teachers at a STEM-focused high school, argue that the reason for the gender gap in the STEM fields is not a shortage of girls with ability, but the failure of our science curriculum to engage their interest and kindle their passion. The remedy they propose—telling the stories of science—could lend the STEM fields some of the allure traditionally left to the humanities.
Plenty of resources are available to help infuse science storytelling into your classroom without ever hitting the flea market. Consider showing students episodes from Idaho Public Television’s History of Science series, or using the exciting lesson plans available from the University of Minnesota or the University of Florida.