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Kelly Henderson’s Blog

How Science Storytelling is Shaping Future Generations of Scientists

Kelly Henderson

Posted February 20, 2013

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NRDC is most well-known for being an advocacy organization that utilizes both the political know-how of its policy “wonks” as well as the impeccable strength of its litigation team. Those two forces combined with the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists yields a powerful organization that drives environmental action, protection and education to millions of people every year. But there is one key component to NRDC’s success that is sometimes overlooked due to its smaller representation within the organization: science.

The purpose of NRDC’s Science Center is to “bolster its technical capabilities and environmental advocacy efforts across a range of priority issues, from cutting global warming pollution to the extinction of endangered species.” While that sentence adequately covers the technical description of the purpose of science at NRDC, I believe science plays a much greater role in forming the successes of NRDC and other environmental advocacy groups as a whole. Science is the foundation for technological advances that will make our society prosper. It’s what allows the world to continue to grow and develop in ways it has not been able to do it the past… and it all starts in the classroom.

Today, school curriculums are focusing a lot more on science. Educators know that improving science education is imperative to keeping the United States innovative and competitive with other countries. But unfortunately, even after years of focused standards-based reform, improvements in U.S. science education have been limited, and comparisons show that U.S. students fare poorly in comparison with students in other countries. A big question that many educators are facing is how to make science more interesting and how to better engage students. Members of the ScienceOnline community have created ScioTeen, which may be an answer!

This April, ScienceOnlineTeen will host ScioTeen, a conference for scientists, students, and teachers to experience how the Web is transforming the way we do, seek, explore, and communicate science. The goal of the conference is to build connections between students, teachers and the online scientific community in order to discuss how new media is changing the world of science. This year, NRDC will have a role at the conference helping to engage students and teachers even further by bringing in a creative element to the mix: Perrin Ireland. Perrin is NRDC’s Science Center Communications guru and “science storyteller.” Her job is to visualize science to help people understand and communicate it more clearly. Perrin has helped many NRDC staff including health program scientist, Sarah Janssen, make NRDC’s sometimes complex issues into an artistic story that allows for a broader audience to follow along. (Watch the video, below).

At the ScioTeen conference, Perrin will scribe (visually capture) the event, and will be present for what are called “Blitz Sessions,” where she will host a table where she can show her work and talk to teens about what she does.  She will be NRDC’s representative and talk to teens about different science careers.

Not only will the conference be a fantastic way to get NRDC’s name out to the younger generations of up and coming scientists, but it will also promote the importance of science to teenagers.  Science is and will continue to be the path forward for innovation and advances in technology that will propel our economy and infrastructure into the future.  Science storytellers like Perrin may be the key to helping us get there.

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Jennifer BrownFeb 22 2013 07:16 PM

I loved Janssen's great story shared in this video. As a genetics PhD I struggle with effective communication all the time, and thinking of it as storytelling is helpful. Not sitting on the couch again anytime soon!

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