Storytelling in the Meteorology Classroom

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The current explosion of scientific information available to science educators puts increasing pressure on conventional educational approaches. One educational technique that (a) facilitates the communication of essential knowledge, (b) is supported by cognitive science theory, and (c) is easily implemented in the atmospheric science classroom is the reformulating of lectures into stories. “Storytelling” here is understood to describe the oral or written communication of a “connected narrative of important events.” Stories differ from other pedagogical approaches, such as the traditional fact-laden lecture, through the network of multiple linkages between different characters, events, and facts in a story. Facts in a lecture may simply follow one after another; events in a story, by contrast, must follow from previous facts and the logic in the story itself.

An account is given of the lead author's use of storytelling in an atmospheric dynamics course at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. In the 2-hour-per-week laboratory, the course material was cast in the form of stories—stories that framed the basic knowledge, conveyed key concepts, and related key topics to one another. Stories were delivered orally in class and through an informal laboratory workbook. The rationale for this approach, the stories told, and the students' reactions are described. An example of storytelling in a global climate change course is also provided to illustrate the usefulness of storytelling in a wide range of meteorology courses.

*Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

+Department of Physics and Atmospheric Sciences, Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi.

Corresponding author address: Dr. John A. Knox, Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University and NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025. E-mail: jknox@giss.nasa.gov

The current explosion of scientific information available to science educators puts increasing pressure on conventional educational approaches. One educational technique that (a) facilitates the communication of essential knowledge, (b) is supported by cognitive science theory, and (c) is easily implemented in the atmospheric science classroom is the reformulating of lectures into stories. “Storytelling” here is understood to describe the oral or written communication of a “connected narrative of important events.” Stories differ from other pedagogical approaches, such as the traditional fact-laden lecture, through the network of multiple linkages between different characters, events, and facts in a story. Facts in a lecture may simply follow one after another; events in a story, by contrast, must follow from previous facts and the logic in the story itself.

An account is given of the lead author's use of storytelling in an atmospheric dynamics course at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. In the 2-hour-per-week laboratory, the course material was cast in the form of stories—stories that framed the basic knowledge, conveyed key concepts, and related key topics to one another. Stories were delivered orally in class and through an informal laboratory workbook. The rationale for this approach, the stories told, and the students' reactions are described. An example of storytelling in a global climate change course is also provided to illustrate the usefulness of storytelling in a wide range of meteorology courses.

*Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Wisconsin—Madison, Madison, Wisconsin

+Department of Physics and Atmospheric Sciences, Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi.

Corresponding author address: Dr. John A. Knox, Center for Climate Systems Research, Columbia University and NASA/Goddard Institute for Space Studies, 2880 Broadway, New York, NY 10025. E-mail: jknox@giss.nasa.gov
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