Story Strategies from Film Studios that Enhance Science Learning

Friday 3:20pm-3:40pm Northrop Hall: 116
Teaching Demonstration Part of Friday Session A


Sara ElShafie, University of California-Berkeley


This workshop demonstrates use of story development skills from film training for instruction in Earth Science topics.


This demo trains participants to share science using story development techniques from filmmaking. We will discuss how to use story development as a framework for science teaching with a climate change example. The demo consists of two parts: 1) an interactive activity in which participants learn from the student point of view; 2) group discussion of how to use this method effectively as educators. Participants will leave with a working story outline for a lesson on climate change, and can use the worksheet to teach other subjects. The worksheet is also useful for developing presentations on scientific research for specialist or general audiences.

I developed this demo with educators at the University of California Museum of Paleontology, based on a collaboration with artists at Pixar Animation Studios.


I adapted this demo from a workshop that I developed to train scientists, educators, and students to engage general audiences with science. I aim to 1) help participants clearly articulate their professional motivations; 2) give participants practical tools to engage others with science; and 3) prepare participants to continue to develop their skills after the workshop.

As a science instructor, I use the same material in my classroom to engage students and to help them learn efficiently. I train my students to think about science in terms of story as they learn it, in order to help them organize new information into a cohesive framework that is meaningful and memorable. This approach facilitates metacognition of new material and its significance throughout the learning process.

Why It Works

Story is a universal language that speaks to everyone, thus it is an excellent framework to use to engage broad audiences in any context. Studies show that people absorb and recall new information more effectively if the information is presented in a narrative structure. This approach adapts story strategies from film training to facilitate effective, inclusive, and enjoyable science learning in any context. This initiative also illustrates a fruitful collaboration between scientists, educators, and the entertainment industry.