This blog will focus on ways to integrate science and English class. As a graduate of a STEM-focused high school and an English teacher at my high school alma mater I am passionate about bringing science and English class together whenever possible.
I’m a science geek. Always have been. In middle school I went to science camp during the summer. In fact, I went to science camp two summers in a row. Yes, I am a big geek.
In 8th grade, I made the decision to apply to the local STEM magnet school. I was lucky enough to get in and was thrilled. In high school my love affair with science continued thanks to my amazing biology teacher. (Today I am lucky enough to call him my colleague!) He taught me freshman biology and I was hooked. Then I had an amazing AP Bio teacher my senior year. Both of my biology teachers presented the narrative of science, sharing more than “just the facts”. I designed research experiments, analyzed data, created my own content. I loved biology and environmental science and scored high on both AP exams. I headed off to college with 8 science credits and a plan to major in biology or zoology or marine biology.
But after high school, I hit a wall. It started because I did really, really well on my SATs. My verbal score was perfect. My math score was not perfect, but still pretty darn good. I went off to college and was part of the women’s science initiative there. I spent the summer before my freshman year as part Project SUPER at Douglass College, visiting pharmaceutical companies and touring labs all over campus. I took a science class or two my first year, but I couldn’t decide on a major. The focus in my program was on lab science and I wasn’t really interested in that. I wasn’t interested in working for one of the many pharmaceutical companies in NJ or spending my life in a lab. There was nothing about ecology or field biology presented in the program and I started to drift away from science.
I also loved literature and writing. Long story short, I never pursued a career in science because I couldn’t find classes that fit my interests. I majored in English and Elementary Education and became certified K-12 in English. Today I teach high school English at my alma mater, where I strive to connect science and English class so that other students won’t feel the need to choose between science and English. I want them to see that science and English work together and you can’t have one without the other. Even if my students don’t plan to major in science in college they still need to be science-literate and literature and writing can be the way in for them. At the same time, science can be the way into literature and writing for students who don’t traditionally enjoy science class.
I’m still a scientist. Maybe I didn’t major in science and I don’t have a PhD, but I participate in science on an almost-daily basis. Why? Because of the narrative that was given to me in high school. Today I am pursuing a MAT in biology through Miami (Ohio) University and it’s the perfect program for me. It focuses on field work, conservation science, and the story of science.
Today I am an English teacher who participates in citizen science projects. I track the monarch butterfly migration and milkweed growth each season. I teach a science enrichment class at a local university, geared towards getting middle schoolers interested in science. Without amazing teachers who used stories to hook me, or a workshop that continued using stories, I don’t know if I would be the citizen scientist I am today.
Story matters. It matters in language arts, in history, in math, and in science. It matters in life. Humans communicate through stories and we have since the dawn of civilization. Stories activate our brains and help us make deeper connections. And I’ve watched those stories keep students interested in every subject. The world is cut out into little sections, this part for science and this part for math, this part for history and this part for art. The world is real, it’s messy, and it requires us to be engaged. Story can help us get our students ready for that.