Communicating Fire

Integrative Learning through Participatory Narratives

Teresa Cavazos Cohn w/ Erin James, Leda Kobziar, Jennifer Ladino 

funded by the National Science Foundation



Constructing fire board models of wildfire scenarios with students in the Communicating Fire project.

Communicating Fire is an interdisciplinary project that explores the efficacy of using personal narratives of wildland fire to increase participation in informal STEM learning in rural Idaho. The American West is rife with personal narratives of evacuation, smoke, disaster. Yet alongside these dramatic events and the deep, powerful emotions that come with them, fire scientists carry a quieter but no less important message: fire has always been a part of the western landscape, many wildland fires play natural and beneficial roles, and in a warming world we must learn to live with more fire. Indeed, prescribed burns — set intentionally by fire managers — are a critical management tactic.

Rather than dichotomizing “fire as terror” and “fire as tool,” we explore narrative as a means of integrating the deep emotion of lived experience with the fire science embedded in it to support a better understanding of wildfire in Idaho. Bringing together a science communicator, a narratologist, a fire ecologist, and a specialist on emotions and public lands, our interdisciplinary research team focuses on broadening participation in STEM by exploring:

  1. What characteristics of narrative are most effective in fire science communication, and

  2. What audience-centered approaches work best when facilitating participant narratives in informal STEM learning.

Our team will work collaboratively with informal educators based in rural areas of Idaho underrepresented in STEM fields.

Principal Investigator: Teresa Cohn. Co-PIs: Erin James, Leda Kobziar, & Jennifer Ladino 

Graduate Research Assistants: Kayla Bordelon, Michael Decker, Jack Kredell

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Learn more about the project.