Help Your Students Rediscover the Magic of Science and Story


Last month, the Royal Society decided to celebrate 30 years of its Science Books Prize by, in part, polling its readership on this question: What is the most inspiring science book of all time? The 1,309 responders didn’t overwhelmingly converge on any one book, but the winner, capturing 18 percent of the vote, was The Selfish Gene, the 1976 book by Richard Dawkins that, with its gene-centered view of evolution, startled and awed not just a lay audience, but scientists, too.

Dawkins invited readers to see evolution through, as it were, the eyes of genes, which produce beings like us as their vehicles, or “survival machines,” to reshuffle and ferry themselves into the next generation. The genes don’t create us for our sake but, in a sense, for their own. We are here, reproducing and struggling to survive, so that they might live on—potentially forever (Dawkins also entertained The Immortal Gene as a title). When I finished it nearly a decade ago—the book was required reading in my intro to human evolution course—I acquired a new perspective: I don’t have genes; genes have me. The book was, in other words, an exemplar of the “very best science writing,” according to the Royal Society: It inspires, moves, and compels readers as much as the writing in any other genre and, what’s more, it promotes the public’s science literacy—an understanding of how important science is to our everyday lives.

In a nutshell that is our aim at Nautilus—to showcase the very best science writing. Nautilus has built an audience numbering in the millions by re-connecting science to our lives, and telling its stories with style, substance, and imagination. Our society needs them. The value of science literacy in the modern world will only increase. That’s because new technologies, birthed by scientific progress, are changing our world—and our view of ourselves—faster than almost any other force. The best time to learn about science is at a young age, when the mind is labile, open to new ideas and ways of thinking.

But science classrooms, especially in the United States, are undergoing change. The Next Generation Science Standards that have been already adopted by 19 states, are being used as a model for science standards in many more. Their goals and methods mirror Nautilus’: science literacy and an increased interest in the science and technology that are so important to our lives. This means replacing the stand-alone silos of biology, chemistry, and physics with what the new standards call “crosscutting concepts” that link disciplines.  Just as Nautilus uses its multidisciplinary exploration across the sciences, math, culture, art, and society. 

Rather than just have students memorize, the new standards seek to teach them how to observe and ask questions. By having students understand scientific inquiry, the standards can instill ways of thinking that, as Nautilus would say, connects science to people’s everyday lives and the world of ideas. The standards’ focus on disciplinary core ideas, like natural selection in biology and plate tectonics in geology, and reinforces the rigors of science without compromising accessibility, one of the key ingredients to Nautilus’ success with its audience.

But perhaps the most important connection between Nautilus and the Next Gen Standards is the importance placed on narrative. Nothing communicates like stories. The demonstrated ability to narrate observation, experimentation, and discovery—the stories of science—is why so many teachers want to use Nautilus in the classroom. 

A new Nautilus Education Program will answer that desire, providing a year-long print subscription to a school library or science classroom. We’ll also give access to Nautilus Prime, our digital subscription service, to every student and teacher in the school. Nautilus is partnering with Rune to install their content annotation and sharing software within Nautilus; it’ll be adapted for teachers and students to share notes, comments, and highlighted content on Nautilus within a monitored, closed social network that can contain regional, state, and even district nodes. This will create a multifaceted, closed educational social network around Nautilus content that will be instrumental in integrating Nautilus into school curriculum. We plan to have the network(s) live by the start of the fall school year.

Nautilus Education will help students rediscover the magic of science and story. At a time when our scientific and educational institutions are being tested, it’s more important than ever to get today’s best science writing directly into the hands of our students.

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One Comment

  1. Harry E. Keller
    Posted August 17, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    I wrote “Mars Rhapsody” with learning science in mind, maybe too much so because I worked hard on the science part but less on character development and story tension. I am working on a rewrite to fix those. The point here is that fiction can qualify too.

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