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Spring 2014
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THE BEAT
 
Science Storytellers
Med students use compelling narrative to teach concepts.

Saturday night, and the club was packed. Brenda Devereux and her fellow interns at the investment bank, Claire Yee and Lily Palmer, were having their usual girls’ night out…

Believe it or not, this is the opening to a lesson plan on cellular respiration, co-written by William Brucker ’04 MD’13, executive director and founder of the Providence Alliance of Clinical Educators (PACE). PACE, founded in 2011, is a nonprofit that aims to improve high school science educational outcomes by integrating basic science into memorable stories. The stories are free to teachers online as supplemental materials in the classroom.

Bill and his sister, Brenna Brucker MD’13, PACE’s chief operating officer and treasurer, talked to Brown Medicine about the success of their new approach to science education.

 

How did you develop the idea to teach science to students through storytelling?

WB: I got to teach students at Rhode Island College, where I was an adjunct professor in the biology department. Working with the students is where everything came together. They were a sort of laboratory to test different techniques, to see what worked and what didn’t. In terms of science, they were a very reliable assay, because they were a tough crowd.

Why do you think science is traditionally a difficult subject to teach?

WB: Teaching science is kind of like getting people to eat something they don’t want to eat. Take eggplant, for example. You can give someone an eggplant and say, “This is nutritious, why don’t you want to eat it?” And they would tell you, “This is terrible, I don’t like it!” The challenge of the teacher is to use ingredients that no one likes and find a way to make them appetizing. So our task is to take an eggplant and make eggplant parmesan.

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