Weaving Science into Stories to Foster Engagement and Learning

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I recently saw a post on a nutrition educator page asking for stories that might assist in teaching about vitamins.  Covering all the vitamins can feel like working through a to do list.  The author of the post felt providing some interesting background or context would help foster relevance and interest.  I agree! 

Stories fuel the imagination as students visualize the people, places, and happenings being described.  This helps move beyond simply disseminating information to immersion and engagement with the text.  Stories help us make sense of what we are reading or studying - and can allow students to make sense of scientific subject matter.  I would often open my classes with a story based video to introduce a topic or share a personal story or professional scenario that gave some relevance and real life application.  In response to my colleague's request for vitamins, I shared our chapter's stories for the vitamin chapters about bio-fortification of rice with vitamin A to reduce deficiency disease in vulnerable parts of the world and the pioneering research that helped eradicate niacin deficiency that plagued the south in the early 1900's.  I also shared a short fun video about how vitamins got their names that I used in class.  

I love that our textbook, Nutrition for a Changing World, uses a journalistic or story-based approach to frame and augment the fundamentals and concepts for each chapter and spotlight.  Stories open each chapter, are integrated throughout and close each chapter.  Students are reading science as they follow the story.  Check out the chapter topics and the associated stories here . We considered and selected the stories carefully and have a mix of stories that are based upon relevant research, public health, historical perspectives, nutrition in chronic disease, and current food/nutrition related issues (like food deserts, biofortification, sustainability and more).  We continue to refresh and/or replace these with each edition.  In addition, many of our "Bring It Home" application activities use scenarios to help students relate the material to "real people".  

I believe we all learn and remember more effectively through the use of stories.   Stories help us not just gather information but help us make sense of what we are learning.   Tell a story today!  😁

About the Author
Jamie Pope, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Assistant Professor of Practice in Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, has worked in the areas of obesity research, health promotion, heart disease prevention, and since 2000 teaching introductory nutrition. Beyond the classroom, she adapted portions of her nutrition courses to produce a Massive Open Online Course attracting more than 175,000 participants from around the world. This experience earned Jamie an Innovation in Teaching award from the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing. She is the co-author of the textbook entitled Nutrition for a Changing World. Now in its second edition, the text is in use in over 140 universities across the U.S. and the recipient of a 2020 Textbook Excellence Award. Most recently she developed and produced an audio course for Learn25.com (Nutrition 101: Understanding the Science and Practice of Eating Well) that is also featured on platforms like Apple Books and Audible. Jamie holds a Master’s of Science degree in Nutrition and post graduate work in Health Psychology. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has authored or contributed to numerous scientific and popular press publications. Jamie also held several corporate positions, serving as nutrition consultant and media representative.