On the Significance of Storytelling and Beauty in Science Education
As I contemplate how to make education something inspirational, something that is designed to move people emotionally, I reflect on the power of storytelling. Today, a student of mine enthusiastically recounted a few ‘science stories’ — stories about Concorde and why it went out of service to stories about wine production. I asked him, “why is it you so vividly remember these stories but you do not remember the facts behind them (the facts, might I add, that will be examined in his summer exams?)” He shared that in fact, the story is “the only part that I listen to, simply because it is the most interesting.”
Fashion collections are inspired by stories. Fine French patisserie are inspired by stories. Travel magazines, sportswear campaigns and even musicians all communicate stories and ideas. Moreover, they are communicated in ways that are so deeply moving, that people take interest simply because they are interesting. I have always believed that sometimes how you say something is more powerful than exactly what you say. And that aesthetics can be used to communicate concepts in a way that sometimes words cannot. Where then is the role of beauty and powerful, emotional storytelling in education? Is a mundane, boring story isolating people from a subject they might otherwise find interesting? Perhaps then the a teacher should see their role less as helping students get great exam marks (though that is wonderful) and more as an artist that brings ideas to life.
I thought about aspiration in teenagers. I thought about Teen Vogue that tailor their stories fashion stories to young women. Is fashion interesting to young women, simply because more energy has been invested into making clothing interesting for generations more than Science. What if we could bring those stories to life? What if we gave the same attention to the educational stories we tell, that we do to branding campaigns we do for Nike. I never came to design because of my schooling, in fact I used to find making ‘key rings’ in order to pass a random test, rather boring as a 13 year old. I came to design through my fascination with hotels. Perhaps however, we should try and make finding your passion as a young person less random, less arbitrary and cultivate it through ensuring we present information in a way that is at the very least easy and beautiful and at the very best, moving and inspiring.
Words by Natasha J. Hussein