Chemistry Edutainment: A Storytelling Activity for Middle-School Children

Chemistry Edutainment: A Storytelling Activity for Middle-School Children

José Ferraz-Caetano, Dora Dias
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6605-3.ch019
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Creating a fun, interactive, and useful science activity for teaching purposes can be a real challenge, especially if it is addressed to middle-school children. More and more science communicators are employing novel communication techniques to better reach out to their audience. In science communication, storytelling is valuable to sparking interest in science. Given that there are many episodes in the history of science that can serve as inspiration, the authors of this chapter share how they used storytelling, based on a real-life event, to create a science communication activity for middle-school children. Focused on chemistry and ethics, these topics were introduced through hands-on laboratory activities with ethical questions embedded in the story line. This task challenges the students to come up with answers by themselves, through a problem-based learning model. By adding game logic elements to this activity, the authors created a unique form of communicating science, both educational and entertaining, which children appreciated.
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In this chapter, the authors will discuss in detail how they transformed an event from the history of science in the 19th-century, known as the “Crime on Flores Street”, into a storytelling-based activity focused on chemistry and ethics, thus calling it “Ethics against Chemistry”. This chapter emphasizes the potential use of storytelling in science education, presenting a framework of a new science communication activity, which was well-received by the students.

“Ethics against Chemistry” was designed for middle-school students, to be used in a non-formal classroom environment. Moving through the sections of this chapter, we will explore all stages of storytelling development, including the adaptation of the real story into a student-friendly activity, as well as the association of storytelling with gamification. Following the introduction of the concepts of storytelling and edutainment, section two of this chapter presents the activity outline, addressing the general aspects of its framework. The primary focus will be on structuring the activity whilst addressing our proposed goals for student interaction. In the following section we present in detail our activity framework. Firstly, a review of “Crime on Flores Street” is presented, to explain key aspects retained in the activity design. Then, the focus will turn to the storytelling adaptation of this case, detailing key aspects such as its history, characters, and student engagement. The section ends with a clear-cut explanation of how the gamification elements were added to the activity, highlighting the connections made with the edutainment and storytelling framework. The addition of game logic elements has turned this activity into a form of entertainment without neglecting the educational side, thus creating a unique form of chemistry and ethics “edutainment”. The next section of this chapter contains the assessment of the activity. We will focus on the feedback given on the activity, specifically in its storytelling and edutainment components. This part of our research aims to analyze the suitability of this approach from the students’ perspective. In the final section we discuss the challenges and possible research opportunities created by this work.

Previous results of this activity were presented in the following conferences: XVII ENEC / III International Seminar of Science Education in Porto (Portugal) and Encontro de Ensino e Divulgação da Química in Coimbra (Portugal), both in 2019.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Problem-Based Learning: Learning technique that appeals to the students’ curiosity by establishing a problem to be resolved, and by doing so, the students learn from this task.

Hands-on Activity: A type of experimental activity that invites the touch sensitivity of the participant, who can manipulate objects.

Edutainment: Conjugation of an entertainment activity with educational content, so as to improve learning and make it more interactive.

Storytelling: The art of telling a story in such a way that it compels the audience, engaging with them through appeal to the emotional side. A good resource to use in science communication.

Gamification: Adding game elements to a non-gaming context, such as team-players competitiveness, win/lose logic, or gaining points through the activity.

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