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Transforming Learning Through Storytelling

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Once upon a time, there was a textbook—a boring, dull textbook that no one wanted to read. It was filled with facts, but it lacked a story, making it difficult for students to relate to as they read. One day, the teacher discovered something new and put the textbook on a shelf. 

Storytelling to Teach History and Science

It was a series of textbooks, but not just any textbooks. These were unique, they were stories filled with facts that sparked curiosity and prompted questions. They were designed to do more than just teach, they were designed to help students discover the stories of life and make connections between science, history, and their own lives, making each student feel special in their learning journey. 

They were Joy Hakim’s Discovering Life’s Story series, and they were wonderful.

Storytelling to Teach History and Science

Disclaimer: I have been compensated for my time to write this review. All opinions are my own.

If you’re wondering who the teacher was in the story above, that would be me. And those students who were bored by traditional textbooks? Those were my kids. However, the tale of the boring textbook is as old as time, and it very well could be you and your children who have experienced the same thing. 

That’s why I was so excited to read Joy Hakim’s Discovering Life’s Story series, which is part of MITeen Press, which is part of Candlewick Press. Interestingly, Candlewick’s MITeen is a publishing collaboration with MIT Press.

Storytelling Brings History and Science to Life

I honestly can’t remember when I have ever read a textbook from cover to cover, but these? I couldn’t put them down. 

And why was that? Because Hakim wrote Biology’s Beginnings and The Evolution of an Idea in such a way that it’s like reading a story from a friend.

Don’t believe me? Here’s how she tells the story of Linnaeus’ work to bring order to biological classification.

“Picture a grocery store with ketchup next to oranges and ground beef with ice cream. Biological classification was like that before Linnaeus appeared. He brought order to the chaos.” (Biology’s Beginnings, p. 128).

Isn’t that so much more interesting and engaging than a typical textbook that would declare that Linnaeus classified biological life?

And The Evolution of an Idea is no different in its ability to engage the reader. Did you know that Charles Darwin married his cousin Emma and that they had ten children? Hakim makes the story of Darwin come alive for the reader by making those in history come alive by being relatable to the reader. While kids might not understand the nuances of Darwin marrying his cousin, they can certainly understand that he was a dad when Hakim writes, “Ten Darwin children will slide down the house’s banisters and play hopscotch on its grounds.” 

The Discovering Life’s Story series paints vivid pictures in the minds of students, making learning fun and memorable. Students don’t just remember the facts, they remember the stories. They remember the excitement of discovering new things and the joy of making connections. They remember the feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves.

Storytelling to Teach History and Science

Implications of Storytelling on Teaching

So, what implications do these books have for those of us tasked with teaching children? 

Simply put, they offer us a way in. 

A way to capture our students’ attention and make biology and history come alive

A way to build their background knowledge and nurture their comprehension.

A way to grow young minds that ask questions and become critical thinkers.

The Discovering Life’s Story series gives us a way to learn, grow, and discover along with our students.

I know it sounds far-fetched that a textbook could be engaging and interesting. By its very name, it conjures up images of boring lectures and hours spent reading mindlessly to complete an assignment. But these books? They repaint that image and fill it with one of interest and curiosity. 

How to Use the Discovering Life’s Story Series with Students

I keep stressing how these are different from your typical textbooks, so some of these ideas may seem unusual based on how you have typically used textbooks with your kids. I know my kids were hesitant at first because, again…textbooks. 

But these books actually lend themselves really well to:

  • Supplementing Your Curriculum: Whether you’re teaching in a classroom or homeschooling, Biology’s Beginnings and The Evolution of an Idea are perfect for supplementing your current curriculum. There’s even a Teacher’s Guide for Biology Beginnings that you can use.
  • Discussion Starters: Use the books as discussion starters to spark conversations about various topics related to history, science, and discovery.
  • Research Projects: Assigning research projects based on the content of these books can help students delve deeper into the historical and scientific concepts presented in the texts. 
  • Inspiration for Creative Projects: Encourage your students to create art projects, presentations, or even short stories inspired by the stories and illustrations in the books. If they’re into watercolors or drawing, they could recreate some of the images found in the books or create their own based on what they read. 
  • Cross-Disciplinary Learning: These books can be integrated into various subjects such as history, science, art, and even language arts to promote cross-disciplinary learning. This helps you get more bang for your curriculum bucks.
  • Book Clubs or Reading Groups: Organizing book clubs or reading groups around these books sounds odd because they’re technically textbooks. Still, they’re written in such an engaging way that they lend themselves perfectly to discussion and critical thinking.
  • Field Trips and Hands-on Activities: Plan field trips to museums or science centers related to the topics covered in the books or organize hands-on activities that bring the concepts to life for students. Even a sorting game of the classification system can make learning more tactile for kids.
Storytelling to Teach History and Science

Joy Hakim Does It Again

Joy Hakim, the series’ author, is dedicated to finding the stories in science and history. It’s her passion and is transforming the way students learn about the subjects. She is also the author of the bestselling and award-winning series A History of US, an American history series. As with her new Discovering Life’s Story series, Hakim’s American history series keeps kids engaged by telling history in the form of a story; that makes it much more fun to read than a standard textbook and much more memorable!

Get Your Copies Now

If you’re looking for a way to engage your students while staying true to history and science, grab your copies of Biology’s Beginnings and The Evolution of an Idea to add to your learning day. 

I can say, without hesitation, that they truly are the most interesting books about science and history that I have ever read. I think you’ll find that you and your students enjoy them too!


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