“Communicate” is a Verb: Helping students put science communication into action

When I started teaching science communication at Stanford four years ago, I had one major goal: to give graduate and undergraduate students first-hand experience with writing about environmental science for the public. After more than a decade working as a science journalist, I knew that effective popular communication is a skill that must be practiced to be mastered—that theory is not enough, and that there’s no substitute for doing work that finds a broad audience.

I was lucky: Leopold Leadership Fellow Terry Root had already beta tested an environmental advice column, a writing and research project that would solicit questions about environmental issues from the public, and train students to research the best available answers and write them in a clear, engaging and—hopefully—motivating style for a general audience.  All I had to do was come up with a curriculum, find an outlet for publication, and work out how to take the students from novice to pro in ten short weeks. Continue reading