Are you a fan of the 19th Century

scientist, Charles Darwin?

If so, this website is for you!  


This website aims to draw together key publications, media and websites on Charles Darwin for the enthusiast.

Tree of Lifecrop orchidjpegcrop

Storytelling & Science

The Use of Stories as a Medium for

Teaching Science


‘KS2 science stats blamed on English

and Maths SATS’ ( TES Newspaper,

August, 2010, Helen Ward) stated:

‘....The proportion of children reaching

level 4 in science dropped to 81 per cent

… after sample tests were brought in to

measure national performance.

Just 28 per cent of pupils taking sample

tests reached level 5,.….The sample

science tests were carried out in

747 schools …..’  


Stories can be one medium that can help students in relation to the understanding of science.  The use of stories in ‘getting a message across’ is long-established; the parables of the Bible and Aesop's Fables (story-teller 620-560 BC) are just two examples!  As regards the teaching of science through stories, here are a few articles that highlight the value of this method of delivery.  


‘Science and Storytelling: The Use of Stories in Science Education’ (Atif Kukaswadia, June, 2013  PLOS Blogs) states that ‘…Science is awesome, but science needs to do a better job of communicating that awesomeness to non-scientists. We’re sitting on the frontiers of human knowledge, and yet we cannot get others as excited about this issue that we’re very, very passionate about. …the way we can communicate science more effectively is to cast off the typical way we view science for academic purposes …We need to tell the story of science – the background, ie. why … research happened, and then the consequences, ie. why … research matters. …… For the general public, or those who may want to just get a general “feel” for a subject, this works very well…. Scientific storytelling, as it relates to teaching and education, should engage the audience and help them ask questions about the science: Why did this happen? What would we do next? How is this possible? As Stephen Klassen …says: “Science stories differ from stories in the humanities in at least two critical aspects, namely, the purpose of the story and the role of the reader or listener. The central purpose of the science story is, after all, to improve the teaching and learning of science, not to just entertain or to communicate a message as is the case for a story in the humanities.”… a scientific narrative should include. … “event-tokens,” ie the key incidents that you structure your story around, and the role of the narrator, who decides what is and what isn’t important, as well as the order in which facts are revealed. …Perhaps one of the big criticisms many may have at this point is that teachers simply don’t have time to come up with stories….. websites such as “The Story Behind the Science” are creating stories that can be used by teachers to help illustrate specific concepts. Most importantly, these stories are being evaluated to ensure they are effective teaching tools. ….At the end of the day, the idea of a scientific story is an interesting one, and it is one that famous science communicators have used to great effect with the public. However, we have to ensure that the focus of these stories remains the science, and that does not get hidden beneath narrative fiction.’  


‘Using Stories To Support Science At KS1’ (Nicholas Taylor, June 2010, Science Assessment) states that ‘Stories are key to primary education, capturing children’s imaginations and engaging all in the narrative. “Stories and poems are the mainstay of primary education; children of all ages love them”. However very few teachers use stories as a stimulus for science based lessons: in a sample of 60 teachers, only four use stories in science … Although teachers recognise the importance of stories in primary education, they are reluctant to use stories in science for a variety of reasons, including feeling insecure when selecting text for scientific purposes. … Very often teachers use stories as a starting point for teaching science topics (Hewlett, 2008). … Using stories as an introduction improves childrens motivation and concentration and allows children to see a reason for carrying out a scientific investigation (Cavendish, Stopps, & Ryan, 2006). If children are able to see a clear purpose for carrying out their activity, they are more likely to stay on task and stay motivated. Stories are easier for children to remember than a “stream of facts typical in expository text” (Butzow & Butzow, 1998, p. xi). Stories also give children opportunities to link scientific concepts to real life situations that are presented through the stories. “Stories of actual people grappling with real life problems are excellent ways of helping children to experience difficult issues or ideas” (Turner & Bage, 2006). Many difficult topics can be covered through use of a story. …Stories can also be used to allow children to experience places and concepts which teachers are not able to provide within a classroom setting. …Scientific skills are a major part of the primary national curriculum and these can be developed through the use of stories. “Literature could provide excellent opportunities for developing questioning, prediction and observation skills where the work is set in contexts familiar to the children” (Grugeon & Gardner, 2000). Pupils can question the science relating to the story, for instance asking what may happen next if a certain variable is applied. This questioning will lead on to the children predicting and subsequently hypothesizing based on previous knowledge of the subject matter. As mentioned above, science can be used to introduce an investigation allowing the children to develop the skills of planning, testing, observing and recording. The skills can be developed in a number of ways using the story as a stimulus. Younger children can use illustrations as a way of observing and then subsequently recording their findings. … “Stories can be fantastic for introducing new vocabulary” (Dunne, 2006). By using stories in science children’s vocabulary increases, allowing not just scientific vocabulary but also descriptive words. As well as children’s vocabulary, storytelling improves their listening and comprehension skills and this helps in both their science work as well as having links to the English curriculum, where skills in the listening section of the national curriculum can be built upon….When selecting a story to support science, teachers should look for a number of key criteria. All stories should be age appropriate, having suitable vocabulary, clear illustrations and an engaging storyline. The story needs to have a clear and engaging narrative, Ian Dunne (2006) suggests “a good story needs to have some dynamism – something actually happens”. Along with an appealing storyline, when selecting a text the teacher needs to consider whether it has links to the curriculum and if the children can see these links. “Stories provide a vehicle to link previously learnt concepts with new ideas” (Hewlett, 2008, p. 94). Stories selected for use in science lessons should both allow children to explore new concepts but also to allow them to build on previously learnt scientific knowledge….. It is important for teachers to remember that children will gain a lot of information from the illustrations and so these need to be considered alongside the narrative. …. (Bibliography: Butzow, C., & Butzow, J. (1998). More Science through Children's Literature. Englewood: Teacher Ideas Press. Cavendish, J., Stopps, B., & Ryan, C. (2006). Involving young children through stories as starting points. Primary Science Review , 18-20. DFEE. (1999). The National Curriculum. London: DFEE. Dunne, I. (2006). Bringing the Story Alive. Primary Science Review , 22-24. Grugeon, E., & Gardner, P. (2000). The art of storytelling for teachers and pupils. London: David Fulton. Hewlett, C. (2008). Science from Stories. In H. e. Ward, Teaching Science in the Primary Classroom (pp. 94-104). Paul Chapman Publishing. Hutchins, P. (1997). Titch. London: Random House. Turner, J., & Bage, G. (2006). Real Stories, Real Science. Primary Science Review , 4-6.)  


‘Using Stories to Teach Science - Ages 9-11’  (published January 2010) is a paperback by Steve Way that aims to  enhance and stimulate science lessons. It contains 12 original stories, sketches and poems to use as the basis for teaching objectives.  2 stories for each of the six units of study from the Science Scheme of Work. The book also contains background information for the teacher, lesson plans and resources sheets. Planning tools and ideas for differentiation are included.  


‘The Science of Fairy Tales’ (Chris Gorski , February 2008, ‘Live Science’ website) writes ‘Kids of any age love to read fairy tales because the storyline never limits the possibility that anything could happen. … Basic physical principles and recent scientific research suggest that what readers might mistake for fantasies and exaggeration could be rooted in reality. …Perhaps some fairy tales are more grounded in reality than others. … An idea is fertilized by the imagination and expanded beyond what seems possible.’  


‘Using Stories To Teach Science’ (Kevin Strauss, M.S. Ed.,’Tales with Tails Storytelling Programs’,, 2005) “Science, by its own definition, doesn’t give us meaning. It just provides us with facts . . . Our lives gain meaning only when we tell our story..”— David Steindl-Rast… Traditional stories and research-based science have at their hearts the same basic goal: finding truth. But they each use different tools and different languages to get there. … research-based science and metaphorical stories [are] the two legs of our understanding. Take away either one and our understanding topples to the ground….Folktales and personal stories use a metaphorical truth to help us connect to and care about our world. They answer our "why" and "so what?" questions with metaphorical and symbolic answers that connect with our emotions. Research-based science answers our "how" questions and speaks to the logical side of our brains.In the classroom, you can use stories to introduce a topic, hook listeners and demonstrate abstract ideas. In addition to being an effective teaching tool, you will also discover that telling stories is fun for both the listeners and the teller … Environmental Story: a narrative that either teaches something about the animals, plants and natural wonders of our world, or that teaches an environmental education concept like diversity, sustainability, food chains or adaptations….Why Tell Stories In Science Class?....A story can “hook” students’ attention. A story is a natural lure for students. Almost instinctively, theywant to know how the story ends and they will remember that story more than almost anything else that you say that day….Stories can give students a “mental organizer.” Since human brains are built to remember stories, any information presented in a story form is easier to remember than a random list of facts. Once a student has heard a folktale about how bear got a stumpy tail, that story creates a "bear file folder" in the listeners mind. Now when they hear bear biology facts, they can put it into their "bear file" and remember is more easily because it is linked to an enjoyable bear folktale. In many cases, difficult science concepts like “carrying capacity” or “diversity is the key to stability” in ecology are easier to demonstrate in the form of the story. A story helps students “change gears.” When you change from science lecture to a story, its gives students a chance to rest the logical side of their brains and engage the creative, imaginative side of their brains. This is important for the problem-solving aspects of science. … Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”…Storytelling is an effective way to teach lessons. Human brains seem to retain material put in story form much better than a list of unrelated facts (Haven, 2000) and (Weaver, 1994). Storytelling is a gentle and effective way to pass on lessons and values. …Storytelling is fun. It is a captivating, economical, non-electronic form of entertainment accessible to most people regardless of income or educational level. This is the primary reason that most people tell and listen to stories. We enjoy the experience…..While educators could present an entire educational program using environmental stories, most likely you will use individual stories to make a point in an education lesson that may also contain lecture, hands on activities, outdoor explorations, etc. There are three points in any educational lesson where a teacher could use a story: opening, transitions and closing. (Bibliography: Haven, Kendall. Super Simple Storytelling. Englewood, CO: Teacher Idea Press, 2000.  Weaver, Mary, ed. Tales as Tools. Jonesborough, TN: National Storytelling Press, 1994. )


All the stories were analysed using Microsofts Reading Age Function. ‘Use Microsoft Word's Reading Age Function To Vet Classroom Material’ (Anne Vize, February 2012) states ‘Using Microsoft Word to Check Reading Age Levels…It will also give you a score for the percentage of passive sentences (we know that active sentences are easier to read, and passive sentences are harder). And lastly, it will give you a grade level score for readability of the text. This grade level score is based on the US grade system, so may differ slightly for different countries. As a general rule, add 5 to the grade score to get an actual reading age to compare to the student's actual age.’

This analysis shows that the Darwin stories:

• Incorporate active sentences to a great extent (a minimum of 91%) and therefore easier to read. (Passive sentences average 4.6%)

• Have an average reading ease of 73.4% and therefore quite easy to read by an 11 year old.

• Meet a reading age of 10-13 (average 11.7), which coincides with the 10-11 age group of Year 6 (according to Vize); coincide with an average student in Years 5-8 (average 6.7 ie. Years 10-11, according to Wikipedia)