Tennessee Steam Festival brings science through storytelling to students

Photo courtesy of the Tennessee Steam Festival 

Story by Bryanna Weinstein

The Tennessee Steam Festival, a three-day, state-wide event created driven by Murfreesboro’s Discovery Center with the intention to inspire students to get involved with the sciences,  commenced on October 17 and ended on October 20. It’s impact, however, continues.

As part of the festival, students and faculty got to participate in a workshop focused on storytelling through science.

Andrei Codrescu, along with a facilitator from the Discovery Center, spoke to students and faculty about how we can bridge the gap or break the wall of confusion when it comes to explaining scientific theories.

Preston, the facilitator, told those in attendance how we really came to this point through the television show MASH. A famous actor on MASH, Alan Alda, became one of the many catalysts into looking at scientists and their communication skills. “Scientists are terrible communicators,” Alda said. 

That quote appears true as people often come out of discussions with scientists more confused than before. Why is that? A faculty member in attendance posed the question that is wondered often. How do you go from jargon to essentially dumbing it down for your audience when communicating? It’s a question that comes up in almost any career field. 

Andrei answered, “It really all comes down to translation.”

Being able to explain why you’re excited about a topic without exaggerating, using less jargon and knowing your audience were key factors. Resonating with your audience through story leads to further involvement with whatever you talk about.

You have to engage them in the unfamiliar with familiar storytelling tactics like analogies or even relating things to pop culture in a way they can understand. Without the knowledge of your audience, that often leads to a barrier in getting your message across. 

“Start with a joke,” Andrei suggested to one of the faculty members. This is something suggested to help professors keep students’ attention, but applies to anyone who presents on a topic most would find boring. 

Storytelling is becoming obsolete, with social media taking away many people’s ability to simply speak to one another, and it is especially prominent with younger kids and teens. With workshops like this, there definitely seems to be hope in the value of storytelling and its application to any academic field.


To contact Lifestyles Editor Brandon Black, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

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