Life Science through Storytelling: A Review of Discovering Life’s Story

Looking for some new science books to add to your homeschool shelves? Here’s a look at Discovering Life’s Story by Joy Hakim, a series for teens that approaches life science through storytelling.

Discovering Life's Story: Learning Life Science Through Storytelling

*I received free copies of these titles for review purposes and have been paid for my time reading and reviewing them. As always, I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions are my own. See disclosure for more additional details. Also, this post contains referral links.*

Storytelling has been a mainstay in our homeschool for many years. Through the pages of countless books, we’ve met new people, made connections, visited different times and places, and explored lots of ideas through the stories that live on our shelves.

That’s why I’m always grateful to discover new books, especially for subjects like science that aren’t usually associated with a storytelling approach. That’s also why I want to tell you about a fantastic new series we’re reading, Discovering Life’s Story by Joy Hakim.

Learning Life Science through Storytelling

Whether you’re looking for help teaching life science or simply want to explore the contributions of significant scientific thinkers, a storytelling approach can engage students and establish connections in ways unavailable in a typical textbook. That’s where Joy Hakim’s Discovering Life’s Story series comes into the picture. 

Discovering Life’s Story Overview

At first glance, the Discovering Life’s Story series may seem like a couple of nonfiction books about life science. That’s certainly true, but there’s a lot more to this series than what’s implied by the eye-catching covers.

Written with teens in mind, this series features two titles, Biology’s Beginnings and The Evolution of an Idea, both by author Joy Hakim

Biology's Beginnings features the Maria Merian's work and impact on life science.

In these volumes, Hakim presents the history of life science through storytelling and allows it to unfold against the backdrop of historical eras and cultures that shaped scientific discovery. 

And because people were at the heart of these discoveries, the Discovering Life’s Story series also weaves into the narrative the stories and thought processes of incredible polymaths longing to better understand the life sciences.

The Discovering Life's Story series teaches life science through storytelling.

It is also worth noting that both volumes are visually stunning. They feature paintings, illustrations, notes, and other items of interest on nearly every page. They also include an extensive list of reading suggestions, making it easy to deep-dive into specific topics or individuals covered in the chapters. 

Polymaths, Scientific Movements, and Life’s Story

As for the content in the two books, Biology’s Beginnings starts in the eighth century with the Muslim empire and ends in the 1800s with efforts to solve a mystery connected to diseased tobacco plants. 

Between these points, readers encounter notable figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Lucrezia Marinella, Francis Bacon, Maria Sibylla Merian, and Carl Linnaeus, along with their ideas and life’s work.

Discovering Life’s Story Teacher Guide

Candlewick Press offers a *free* teacher guide for Volume 1 of the series. It includes discussion questions, several accompanying activities, and a printable page to help with processing.

Click Here for the Guide!

Similarly, The Evolution of an Idea picks up with the Enlightenment and ends with scientists wrestling with evolution theory and its implications for life science moving forward. Additionally, volume two brings the cultural effects of the Enlightenment, Darwin’s work, Darwin’s contemporaries, and Gregor Mendel into the narrative.

Discovering Life's Story - Volume 1 Teacher Guide from Candlewick Press

An added bonus for those who remember picture books like Karl, Get Out the Garden, Gregor Mendel, the Friar Who Grew Peas, and Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, these volumes reacquaint us with many notable thinkers. Better yet, the Discovering Life’s Story series shows us where they fit on the life science timeline and the impact of their scientific contributions. 

Why Storytelling and Life Science Belong Together

Now that you know more about the Discovering Life’s Story series, let’s consider why storytelling and life science work so well together. 

I remember reading some of Charlotte Mason’s teachings several years ago and coming across the following statement:

“Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value.” 

Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

While that idea can and arguably should be applied to every subject, it makes so much sense when it comes to all the complexities of life science. After all, it’s hard to remember, much less care about, the progression of ideas and all the factors that brought them into being when it’s all presented in textbook form.

The Discovering Life's Story series explores the origins of life science and significant developments that have shaped it through the years.

What’s more, dry facts and explanations aren’t likely to encourage wonder or inspire curiosity about scientific discoveries. That’s because our brains are wired for story. From a neuroscientific perspective, story is hardwired in our brains and helps us process all we’re seeing, observing, and connecting to past experiences.

We think in story… It’s how we make strategic sense of the otherwise overwhelming world around us.

Lisa Cron, Wired for Story

All of this to say, learning the history of life science through storytelling makes sense because it helps us to make lasting connections and view the natural world with the awe and wonder it deserves. 

Storytelling in Biology’s Beginnings and The Evolution of an Idea

If you’re familiar with Joy Hakim’s award-winning A History of US series, you’re likely familiar with her approach to storytelling. We borrowed several books from that series from a local library a few years ago and were captivated. In fact, I remember being struck by her ability to present the complicated story of the United States in such a digestible form. 

That’s why storytelling will always have a place in our homeschool and it’s also why the Discovering Life’s Story series is so special. 

The Discovering Life's Story series teaches life science through storytelling.

For some reason, educators don’t think twice about teaching through story in younger grades but tend to abandon it as students get older. 

Thankfully that’s not the case with Biology’s Beginnings and The Evolution of an Idea. These are published by MITeen Press, a Candlewick Press imprint. In other words, these books were written with teens in mind, which means they can engage with story, draw inspiration from the history of life science, ask questions, and think critically along the way. 

Learn More About Discovering Life’s Story

You can get your copies of these books through the following convenient links or check your favorite booksellers:

The above links both lead to Bookshop.org, which allows you to support independent booksellers through your purchases. If you prefer to shop on Amazon, you can also find both volumes there: Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Review: Discovering Life's Story by Joy Hakim - A storytelling approach to life science

In closing, I am so glad to have these books in our homeschool collection. They’ve already been an invaluable addition to our learning, and have been especially helpful in connecting the dots between important life science themes and revolutionary thinkers.

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