“Late at night, our group walked down to the beach carrying bucketfuls of turtle hatchlings. Each year fewer and fewer turtles nest in Costa Rica, and biologists there must do all they can to prevent their extinction. We tipped the buckets over, leaving a mound of hatchlings strewn across the sand. Ahead of them were the glow of the bioluminescent ocean waves and the brilliant reflection of the moon and stars on the water. The natural light should have been a beacon to the hatchlings, drawing them forward and away from the predators of the coast. But despite all the help we’d given them, our turtles struggled to orient themselves. They veered left to face a new, manmade beacon: the city of Tamarindo.”
Thus begins Peter A.’s “Making Science Matter” essay, a piece focused on communicating science to the public through personal experience. Between the hands-on experiences of the Costa Rica trip and deep work in biology, English, and interdisciplinary studies of science, tenth graders have focused this semester on conservation, ecology, and science communication. Their work will end with a gallery of “Making Science Matter” articles being presented in the Writing & Research Center.
Before the tenth graders travelled to Costa Rica in February, they dove into research papers in biology classes, researching topics from plastic overuse to coral reefs to turtle nest temperatures. These papers trained students in the art of making scientific arguments and doing serious reviews of scientific literature. Meanwhile, in English and interdisciplinary studies of science, students read examples of good science writing for popular audiences, investigating rhetorical devices and clear explanatory writing, and discussing how narrative can help explain and make poignant scientific issues.
In Costa Rica, students worked with the Leatherback Trust at Playa Grande, an organization committed to researching and protecting sea turtles, and with the Monteverde Institute in Monteverde, an organization committed to protection of the cloud forest. (See our “Dispatches from the Field” report on the Costa Rica trip!) Throughout the trip, students experienced Costa Rica’s national commitment to the environment and the difficulties of doing science “on the ground.”
When they returned from Monteverde, the students spent time in English and interdisciplinary studies of science thinking about science communication, why it matters, and how it best educates the public while convincing individuals to care about the issues science raises. Then students started writing their “Making Science Matter” pieces, weaving together their personal experience in Costa Rica and their research illustrating environment issues, arguing why we should engage with them and showing what we can do about them. These pieces will be published for the Upper School, and some may be sent out for publishing in professional journals.
“It’s important to learn how to really show other people what you know and why it matters,” said tenth grader Lauren H. “Sometimes, it’s even more important than knowing it yourself.”
April 7, 2017