Of Science and Stories
March 22, 2021
Have you ever heard the story of The Ant and the Grasshopper? As the fable goes, the Ant works throughout the summer to store up food for the winter. Meanwhile, his neighbor the Grasshopper spends his time singing and playing. When winter finally arrives, the Ant is safe and well fed thanks to his hard diligence while the poor Grasshopper has nothing to eat. The moral, as you’ve probably guessed, is that hard work and planning are instrumental to the future.
We’re all familiar with these types of fables or fairytales; little stories which house important lessons. Cinderella teaches us that goodness and kindness are still meaningful even when they’re not seen. The Frog and Scorpion is a grim reminder about trust and character, while Chicken Little tells us not to be taken in by rumor and paranoia (*sighs in 2020*). Stories are how we internalize and remember the deep, timeless lessons of life. As human beings, we have a great need for explanatory simplifications in a complex world. In short, we have a thirst for stories.
To the Test
In many ways, science is like a parable. It’s a story we use to discover the deeper truths about the universe in which we live. Take gravity for example. Long ago, gravity was a story a scientist used to explain why an apple fell out of the tree. Obviously, the concept of gravity is much more complicated, but that is how it began. As the predictions made by the story of gravity proved true, humanity began to better understand the world around them.
Just like a parable, science is the process of testing our stories to see if they offer useful lessons about life. When we teach our students to think and act like scientists, we’re teaching them to dream the impossible and then put those ideas to the test. This skill is invaluable across disciplines: in math and social studies, in reading and writing, growth and learning occur when we figure out how we can test our ideas to see if they’re actually true.
Your students are more than just scientists, though; they’re also living their own stories every day in your classroom. As you hone their critical thinking skills, take time to understand the stories your students tell themselves, about themselves. What ideas should be put to the test?
This is an incredibly powerful frame for educators: ask yourself what narrative your students believe about themselves and help them to shape it with intention. Encourage your students to think critically about the information they share and receive. Why do they believe what they believe? Does the data support this, or are they being influenced by something else? Are they thinking like a scout or a soldier?
Help your students learn and think like noble storytellers. Encourage them to live out tales where they stand up for what’s right and fight back against injustice. Teach them to make the world a better place by holding their stories up to the light and testing them for truth. Humans thirst for stories; by using the power of narrative to understand your students more deeply, your classroom could write an incredible chapter in human history.
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*Todays image provided by The Grasshopper & the Ants by Jerry Pinkney. Get your copy today.