21W.036 | Spring 2022 | Undergraduate

Science Writing and New Media: Writing and the Environment


Session 1:

No readings assigned.

Session 2:

Stickgold, Robert, and Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen. “Quiet! Sleeping Brain at Work.” Scientific American Mind 19, no. 4 (2008): 22–29.

Session 3:

Wilson, Edward O. “Paradise Beach.” Chapter 1 in Naturalist. Island Press, 2006. ISBN: 9781597260886.

Leopold, Aldo. “February” in A Sand County Almanac, and Sketches Here and There. Oxford University Press, USA, 1989. ISBN: 9780197500262.

Ross, Carolyn. “Rhetoric: Writing about Personal Experience” inWriting Nature: An Ecological Reader for Writers. St. Martin’s Press, 1995. ISBN: 9780312103910.

One of the following: 

  • Donald Hall, “Winter.”
  • Savoy, Lauret. “A Stone’s Throw: The View from Point Sublime.” Terrain.org: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments, no. 24 (2009).
  • Turner, Jack. “Introduction” and “Return” in Teewinot: A Year in the Teton Range. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2001.
Session 4: 

More narrative essays—Home and Away (Read all four pieces.)

  • Meloy, Ellen. “The Inverse Cordillera” and “The Flora and Fauna of Las Vegas” in Raven’s Exile: A Season on the Green River. University of Arizona Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780816522934.
  • Lopez, Barry. “Gone Back into the Earth” in Crossing Open Ground. Open Road Media, 2013. ISBN: 9781480409170,
  • Lopez, Barry. Excerpt from “A Northern Passage” in Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape. Vintage, 2001. ISBN: 9780375727481.
Session 5: 

Two sample student narrative essays of your choice. Not available to OCW readers.

Session 6:

No assigned readings.

Session 7: 

No assigned readings.

Session 8: 

Sample student critical review. Not available to OCW readers. 

Choose a pair of documentaries from the video list and view both at least twice.

Session 9:
  1. Read Preparation for Critical Review (PDF) (DOC). (Questions to guide your analysis.)
  2. Read articles related to the topic of your documentaries (located with help of instructor).
  3. Read broader articles on communicating science. 
  4. Read two articles from this list. Choose carefully. 
    1. Nisbet, Matthew C., and Dietram A. Scheufele. “What’s Next for Science Communication? Promising Directions and Lingering Distractions.” American Journal of Botany 96, no. 10 (2009): 1767–1778.
    2. Laursen, Sandra L., and Annette Brickley. “Focusing the Camera Lens on the Nature of Science: Evidence for the Effectiveness of Documentary Film as a Broader Impacts Strategy.” Journal of Geoscience Education 59, no. 3 (2011): 126–138.
    3. Dahlstrom, Michael F. “Using Narratives and Storytelling to Communicate Science with Nonexpert Audiences.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, no. supplement 4 (2014): 13614–13620.
    4. Scheufele, Dietram A. “Communicating Science in Social Settings.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. supplement 3 (2013): 14040–14047.
    5. Varner, Johanna. “Scientific Outreach: Toward Effective Public Engagement with Biological Science.” BioScience 64, no. 4 (2014): 333-340.
    6. Brossard, Dominique. “New Media Landscapes and the Science Information Consumer.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 110, no. supplement 3 (2013): 14096-14101.
Session 10:

Additional readings on communicating science: 

  • O’Connor, Cailin, and James Owen Weatherall. “Why We Trust Lies.” Scientific American, Sept (2019).
  • Kolbert, Elizabeth. “Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds.” The New Yorker 27, no. 2017 (2017): 47.
Session 11–13:

No assigned readings.

Session 14: 

Preparing for the Scientific American Update.

  • Look through the list of older articles that can provide a starting point for your Scientific American Update. Select an article that intrigues you and read it.
  • Penrose, Ann and Steven Katz. “Reviewing Prior Research.” Chapter Five in Writing in the Sciences: Exploring Conventions of Scientific Discourse. Third Edition. Open Access Version. Parlor Press, 2010. ISBN: 9781643171869.
  • Bednarek, Angela T. “Undamming Rivers: A Review of the Ecological Impacts of Dam Removal.” Environmental Management 27, no. 6 (2001): 803–814.
  • Marks, Jane C. “Down Go the Dams.” Scientific American 296, no. 3 (2007): 66–71.
Session 15:
Session 16:

Individual research:

  • Track down and read a recent (last five years) scholarly review article that covers new research on a key topic within the earlier magazine article. 
  • Read at least one more journal article (probably from the list of studies covered by the review article) that focuses on the particular area of research that interests you.
Session 17: 

Find and read additional material, possibly including recent news articles, to prepare for your Scientific American Update. Science News might be a useful source.

Session 18:

No readings assigned.

Session 19: 

Angles 2019 student work: Saving Our Pollinators: Investigating Causes of Bee Deaths

Current student draft. Not available to OCW readers.

Session 20–21:

No assigned readings.

Session 22:

Watch three TED talks from the following list. You might prefer to look at ones that do not cover your own topic.

Search talks at TedTalks or YouTube

  • James Hansen: “Why I Must Speak Out About Climate Change” (2012)
  • James Balog (Director of Chasing Ice): “Time-Lapse Proof of Extreme Ice Loss” (2009)
  • Sylvia Earle: “My Wish: Protect our Oceans” (2009)
  • Marla Spivak: “Why Bees are Disappearing” (2013)
  • Cesar Harada (MIT affiliate): “A Novel Idea for Cleaning Up Oil Spills” (2012): response to Gulf Oil spill
  • Topher White: “What Can Save the Rainforest? Your Used Cell Phone” (2014)
  • John Englander: “Sea Level Rise - Fact & Fiction” (2014) TEDxBocaRaton (search via Youtube)
Session 23:

No assigned readings.

Session 24: 

Reread your three major writing assignments for the semester, review the feedback you received, and select the assignment that you plan to revise a second time.

Session 25: 

Continue revising selected assignment. 

Session 26:

Track down one of your favorite books, stories, or poems, and select a passage or poem to read in class.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2022