When children interview scientists

Collage of the Science Storytellers event

Science Storytellers brings collectively two teams of innately curious people: scientists and youngsters.

Jenny Cutraro, science journalist and educator, labored till the final potential second. 

Quickly, tons of of households from across the Boston space would converge on the assembly of the American Affiliation for the Development of Science for its public outreach occasion, Household Science Days. Children fascinated by speaking with scientists about their work would make a beeline for Science Storytellers, a conversation-based science communication program Cutraro had created. 

Earlier that morning on the Science Storytellers sales space, Cutraro had given a quick pep speak to a bunch of scientists from a large cross-section of disciplines who had volunteered to take the primary one-hour shift answering questions from curious children. 

Children who approached the sales space would act as science journalists interviewing real-life scientists. Afterward, they’d share what they realized.

Cutraro, who had been devising and planning the Science Storytellers program for over a yr, would quickly discover out what occurs whenever you ask a baby, “Hey, do you wish to interview a scientist?”

The clock struck 11 a.m., and the primary Science Storytellers started.

Implementing an thought

Cutraro had seen a rising dialog round public understanding of and engagement with science and determined it was time for some options. 

The crux of the difficulty is that some scientists depend on one-way communication of information, wrongly assuming that the uninformed are empty vessels ready to be crammed with information. This technique, referred to as the deficit mannequin of science communication, presumes that with this information everybody will attain the identical conclusions and make the identical selections.

In actuality, analysis exhibits that transmitting scientific information to the general public is essential, however truly shifting somebody’s opinions requires partaking with them in a two-way dialogue and treating them as an entire, difficult particular person with information, experiences and influences of their very own. 

Engagement requires extra than simply talking; it requires listening. 

What higher manner facilitate two-way dialogue than to pair scientists with people who find themselves recognized for being particularly open about their experiences, unafraid to ask questions and susceptible to saying surprising issues? (Children!)

However would it not work? Would children be fascinated by being journalists? And would scientists have the ability to translate their analysis and experiences to a youthful viewers?  As Cutraro found that day in Boston, sure. 

One of many volunteers at that first Science Storytellers occasion was Brian Nosek, a psychologist on the College of Virginia who research implicit bias—ideas and emotions that exist outdoors of acutely aware consciousness or acutely aware management, corresponding to racial bias. 

Nosek spoke to an 8- or 9-year-old boy who instantly made a connection between Nosek’s analysis and a narrative he knew. Cutraro, listening in, caught a little bit of their dialog, which she and Nosek recall as going one thing like this: 

Child: What do you research?

Nosek: Nicely, I research why we typically deal with individuals otherwise.

Child: Do you imply like that girl on the prepare?

Nosek: Do you imply possibly a bus, not a prepare?

Child: Yeah. It was a girl who was on a bus. Her identify began with an R…

“This child in Boston instantly made a reference to Rosa Parks,” Cutraro says. “For me, that was only a actually profound second. Children do understand how related science is to society and instances in our historical past.”

Children management the dialog

Astrophysicist Augusto Carballido of Baylor College in Texas determined to volunteer for Science Storytellers on the following AAAS assembly, this one in Austin in 2018. 

“I take pleasure in speaking about science to nonscientists, however I had by no means talked with little children,” Carballido says. “I believed Science Storytellers could be an excellent expertise for me.”

Earlier than speaking with scientists, children collaborating in Science Storytellers obtain a brief handout describing what science journalists do, a reporter’s pocket book to take notes on, and a listing of advised questions, corresponding to, “What’s your work all about?” “How did you get fascinated by that?” and “Why does it matter?” After speaking with scientists, children fill out an open-ended grid referred to as a “story starter” that helps them think about how they may describe what they realized in a narrative.

Carballido says he loved the problem of answering the children’ questions.

“I actually wanted to determine the best way to make my work relatable to others,” he says. “Nevertheless it’s not in a manner you may anticipate. Irrespective of how intricate the issue, you may nonetheless handle it, and the children can be actually . Actually, they’re very persistent—they gained’t allow you to go till you give a passable reply.”

Carballido says children requested about all types of subjects, from planetary science and the Voyager probes to rocketry and the privatization of area journey. 

And nothing was off-limits.

Children have been particularly fascinated by scientists’ responses to a brand new query added to the advised query record for the Austin assembly, he says: “Virtually each child requested me if I had ever been flawed about one thing.” 

Scientists admitting to having been flawed makes them extra relatable, Cutraro says. And scientists speaking about how they realized from making errors exhibits children a facet of the scientific course of they might not see in class.

Trying forward

In the course of the first Science Storytellers program, over 400 children interviewed scientists. Since then, Cutraro estimates that quantity has swelled to over 1000 at AAAS the previous three years. 

Science Storytellers has grown past the AAAS assembly; the American Chemical Society hosted a Science Storytellers sales space at its fall assembly in 2019 and noticed practically 400 guests. 

Cutraro hopes to proceed to increase into different conferences and public-facing occasions.

“I’d love to maneuver this program into lecture rooms and mix it with classes about media literacy,” Cutraro says. “I’ve additionally thought of doing pop-ups at malls, libraries or farmers’ markets—anyplace individuals congregate.”

Cutraro says Science Storytellers has been extra profitable than she imagined. On the third AAAS assembly with a Science Storytellers sales space, in 2019 in Washingon, DC, she even had some repeat guests: A father-daughter duo who participated in Science Storytellers in Austin have been again for extra. 

“Actually, this woman was so fascinated by science and asking scientists about what they try this she went to her father’s lab and interviewed all his graduate college students,” Cutraro says. 

So, what occurs whenever you ask a baby: “Hey, do you wish to interview a scientist?” An entire lot of excellent.

If you can be in Seattle in the course of the 2020 AAAS assembly and are fascinated by collaborating in Science Storytellers as a scientist or a science author aide, please contact Jennifer Cutraro at In case you are fascinated by attending Household Science Days, go to the Sheraton Grand on Saturday, February 15, or Sunday, February 16, between 11 a.m. and four p.m.

About the author



Add Comment

Click here to post a comment