Panel 2A | Pop Culture Texts as STEM Educational Support

Stranger Things Multimedia Franchise to Support STEM Teaching
Despoina N. Feleki (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki)

This presentation aims at exploring the convergence of popular culture and scientific discourse in ways that will pave the path for new methodologies to inform STEM teaching in middle and high school education. Supporting such a dialogue creates the opportunities for an investigation of the dynamic intersection between popular culture and STEM courses. It also contributes to building a “toolbox” that will allow educators to introduce learners to early theories in engineering, physics, biology, mathematics and computer science in challenging ways. Such lessons can actually arm learners with the strategies to investigate life and then find original solutions to problems while thinking out of the box by using examples inspired by latest American popular cultural production. In response to both C. P. Snow’s idea of a “third culture” that allows the co-existence and dialogue between science and the Humanities and Rachel Holland’s proposition of the emergence of a “third culture novel,” I emphasize the importance of a “third space” where new media and popular culture converge. Somewhere between the physical and the virtual dimension, educators and learners can appreciate the new media pop as a dynamic intersection between natural sciences and popular culture. In more specificity, this presentation addresses the urgent need to inform school curricula and come up with exciting ways of popularizing scientific courses. Therefore, I will discuss the potential of introducing STEM theories through a rich experience that multimedia production can provide. I intend to look closely at the teaching opportunities provided by Stranger Things as an extremely successful and highly praised TV series gradually turning into a multimodal universe and franchise. I will be referring to specific scenes from the TV series, the comic book series as well as the online Wiki technology that can turn our learners into creative, collaborative and active participants in the school culture, exercising critical thinking when solving problems in original and creative manners and employing their imagination through story world building.

Movies and Science Capital: Influence of Science on Screen on Scientific Career Choices
Margarita Segovia-Roldán (University of the West of England)

The use of art and culture for science communication continues to be widely demonstrated. One of the most prominent ways science is embedded into culture is on screen, from documentaries and television series to short films and blockbusters. As young people engage with film and television for entertainment in informal contexts, it’s possible science on screen can contribute to awareness, knowledge and trust in science. In turn, raising the Science Capital of young people, making them feel that science is part of their world and making them potentially more likely to follow a scientific career path. The use of film and television as tools for science communication has been widely demonstrated [1][2]. However, how cinema influences researchers to pursue a scientific career is an open question. In this presentation, we will present the findings of an online survey with participants currently working in science. Fourteen quantitative and qualitative questions probed the relationship between participants’ early experiences with science on screen and their scientific career choices. Questions probed whether participants had an early interest in science and/or films in their younger years, whether there were specific films they felt had influenced them, and also asked them for demographic information about their subject, gender, age, race, sexuality and country of origin. As well as establishing broad trends with regards to how science on screen has influenced people who choose scientific careers, we will also present evidence for how influential examples of science and scientists on screen interact with specific demographic features.

Narratives in the Network
Ash Eliza Smith (University of Nebraska–Lincoln)

I am a part of a group of researchers on the Worlds of Connections: Engaging Youth with Health Research through network Science and Stories in Augmented Reality. The Worlds of Connections is a University of Nebraska–Lincoln-led Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). I lead the creative story development of the AR/VR approach to disseminating network science for health. Through my lab, I bring in Emerging Media Arts students to work in innovative and effective ways to make an easy-to-use interactive story approach to network science for health for middle school-aged youth. We dig into science fiction stories and worldbuilding, and popular video games to research how we might create a project that spreads knowledge and excitement about network science among members of underrepresented minority communities to support diversity in bio-behavioral and biomedical careers. Can these middle schoolers see structures of hierarchy and power that someone of privilege might not see through the tool of systems thinking? We ask how we might represent scientists such as a network scientist that is not always in the popular imagination through this work. My lab is focused on the power of fiction in shaping reality through narrative, worldbuilding and story and is working on strategies for accessibility in disseminating the emerging media asset.