Science media literacy helps students understand how to discern what they’re reading, whether they’re being presented accurate, scientific information, or stories that present falsehoods as fact, Elissar Gerges, a science writer and veteran Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate biology teacher, writes for Edutopia.
Educators can teach students how to sift through science stories in the media, whether they're reading a science article in a consumer publication, a post on social media or a piece of advertising. Students can learn these skills as early as elementary school, with teachers having classes look at marketing copy around sports drinks, for example, to critically analyze a message and know the difference between evidence and opinion.
In science, students will need a strong grasp of the topic to properly assess reports they read in the news, strengthening their mastery of the subject. Overall, developing media literacy skills in a science classroom can also help students learn how to assess content they read in other subjects, and even information they will need to assess after they enter the professional world.
Media literacy is a skill that often crosses curricular topics, from social studies to science. But students also sift through information in their daily lives, particularly online. They may be reading a story about a favorite social media personality or researching information for a classroom assignment. Being able to determine what is factual and assess any bias in the copy, the cornerstones of critical thinking, are crucial abilities they’ll take with them even after they graduate.
These abilities can be useful in school, particularly in science, if educators choose to tie their curriculum to current events and real-world examples happening in students' own lives. Chemistry assignments, such as learning about the science of taste, could be tied to discussions about food deserts, while earth science projects can connect to lessons on fossil fuels and link to climate change. Tying science to current events can help make the subject feel more engaging and relevant, helping students see where science links into their own lives.
To get started, educators can assign students research on current science trends, looking for data and details from news stories on news sites pre-vetted for K-12 classes. Teachers can then weave in media literacy skills by asking students to bring in a science article they find on their own each week and apply critical thinking skills to the piece.
Being able to assess a science news story critically also requires students to have some science expertise, as well, so they can find inaccuracies on their own. In this way, educators not only teach students a new skill but also help them see how the science they learn in school can help them after they graduate.