Academic journal article Teaching Science

Need an Upgrade from 'Once upon a Time ...'? Try This Storybook

Academic journal article Teaching Science

Need an Upgrade from 'Once upon a Time ...'? Try This Storybook

Article excerpt

Ducks in the Flow, Where Did They Go? represents a fusion of language, arts and science. Offering both a story of discovery and factual science content, this hybrid storybook/textbook promotes literacy on several fronts: ocean principles, general science, and language/arts. A step up from the average text or reference book, Ducks in the Flow is based on the U.S. National Standards and the Principles of Ocean Literacy, while its associated activities are specifically designed to enable students to mimic the research and discoveries of the characters in the story. Go with the flow and discover the world of ocean currents.


Stories are an ancient and traditional way of helping people to conceptualise places and phenomena beyond their local understanding ('In a far, far away place ...')--phenomena such as ocean currents (Lowe, 2002). A new storybook, Ducks in the Flow, Where Did They Go? combines the effective use of a science narrative (Isabelle, 2007) with the information of a science-related textbook (Saul et al., 2008). However, unlike a text or reference book for the general public, Ducks in the Flow was written to incorporate the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996), and the Ocean Literacy Essential Principles (Ocean Literacy Network, 2008) (Table 1) and is also compatible with standards from other countries, including Australian standards such as those listed in the Victorian Essential Learning Standards Level 3 (2008; 69). In particular, the National Statements of Learning Elaborations state that:

   Students learn about the actions of forces on
   objects that affect their motion and shape in
   everyday situations such as walking, playing ball
   games, blowing up balloons, playing with moving
   toys and riding in cars or aeroplanes.

In addition, Ducks in the Flow models and promotes student inquiry with a complete module of matching hands-on activities. The storybook and hands-on activities are available free of charge on the Windows to the Universe website at: Please contact Sandra Rutherford if you would like one of the limited number of (free) hard copies of the book. Her details are at the end of the article.


Although it was the animators' intent to entertain rather than scientifically educate the audience, the animation Finding Nemo (Disney/Pixar, 2003) falls short of a scientific explanation of ocean surface currents and could even have introduced misconceptions. Those movie-goers who developed an interest in ocean currents might subsequently have perused reference books or text books to find out more, but what if you could have the story and the scientifically-based information in one source? The hook of a story with the meat of a text book?!

You would not be surprised that many students could answer questions about the location of the East Australian Current after watching Finding Nemo. Why? Finding Nemo was a good story, and like most good stories, people remember it and many of its details. However, most of us do not live in Hollywood, and many countries are requiring educators to focus on language arts in the elementary grades (Akerson, 2001). One consequence of this, for example, was that Primary Connections (2009) partnered with the Australian Academy of Science and the Australian Government Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to develop a curriculum which focused on linking science and literacy. More recently, the National English Framing Paper (NCB, 2008) indicated that 'developing an understanding of how language functions' will 'help students deal with the language demands of the various curriculum areas, such as science'.

Therefore, it is not surprising that an increasing number of educators are using discipline-specific reference/ text or 'trade' books in their classrooms. After all, reading and science share commonalities in terms of the thinking skills that children need to learn, and integrating the two disciplines fosters the development of these skills and maximises achievement (Royce and Wiley, 2005; Their, 2002). …

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