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April 21, 2011 / rachelrenee11

Weaving Science into storytelling

by Rachel Northover

A Tall cool drink of…sewage?

                                                                         tap water..good enough to drink?

Weaving science into story telling is done in all shapes and forms. It begins in childhood and repeats itself in adulthood. For most of us we remember the days when we asked our parents the daunting question of where your baby brother or sister came from. We generally got the reply “well dear there is a long legged stalk that brings mummy and daddy babies. He drops them off on the doorstep, and in most cases it’s a surprise so you never know if you are going to get a brother or sister.” This story telling imprints in our minds and echoed through story books.

The stalk; used to explain to children where their siblings came from. Due to the stalks long legs, and nesting requirements.
Why the stalk one may ask. The stalk was a migratory bird, had long legs and nested on peoples roofs. Explained through science it was easily adapted into children’s story books.
This now takes us to adulthood and weaving science into novels. One such piece is a piece by Elizabeth Royte, where she takes a trip to California to investigate the purification of wastewater. How it goes from the toilet to the tap. Royte has a great way of writing, making wastewater purification sound both gross and informative.
A question to ask is: Who would read a lengthy report on the wastewater purification process? The steps involved from piping it from the toilet to the tap from which you brush your teeth, wash your face, and lastly take a sip from? I sure as wouldn’t. Incorporate it into a story and ‘Walla’ you have your reader entertained and not bored with the data and process of purification.

This has been accomplished by Royte through elements of personal experience.
“A day after mopping I glazed balefully at my hotel toilet in California and contemplated an entirely new cycle. When you flush in Santa California, the waste makes it way from the sewage treatment plant…then sluices not to an ocean, but to a plant that super filters the liquid until it is cleaner than rainwater.”

Her description is using science research and incorporating it in a way as to tell a story. “Each of 16 concrete bays hangs a rack of vertical tubes stuffed with 15,000 polypropylene fibres the thickness of dental floss.”

Royte accomplishes the task of bringing science to the reader with average understanding of science allowing readers to be informed and immersed into a story.



Leave a Comment
  1. winnieoctavia / May 3 2011 10:21 am

    Hi Rachel,

    I like how the author actually puts the title, ‘A tall cool drink of… sewage?’ With that kind of catchy title I am sure a lot people will be attracted to read more about what is the actual story about. Story does attract more people to read and more entertaining just like what you have mentioned rather than boring reports of any findings in science, which not everyone will understands if you are not doing that particular profession. The author does a very good job in turning all those boring science data into story. I also like the way you interpret this at the start of the paragraph. Well done.


  2. cgak05 / May 21 2011 7:18 am

    Hi Rachel,

    I agree with Winner and you that story telling is a great way to make science seem a little more interesting. If only text books could be written in story-telling form. That would be such an ideal thing, especially for pre-primary kids, and even kids at high school. Story telling has a way of pulling the reader in,as it requires the use of all five senses. It is highly effective especially if the author of the book has the ability to use strong yet simple words to help readers imagine. Also, besides using words to tell a story, pictures can be used too. Images tend to capture the attention of readers. Therefore yes, I absolutely agree that story telling can be a great way to communicate science to everyone. You don’t have to be four to be told a story, anyone of age would be interested in reading stories. Most importantly, it helps a lot with people who might not have a great depth into a certain topic of science. Hence, story telling is a great way to help simplify science to a level of understanding suitable for anyone.

  3. Rachel / Jun 3 2011 5:06 am


    Thanks for the comment. Yes story telling can be through pictures as well as words. Helps stimulate the mind and allow the reader to engage more with the story, whether it is science based or not. In this story there were no images, but that did not matter as the words were very descriptive so allowed an understanding of the issue at hand.

    Kind Regards


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