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Stories of Fire

Integrative Informal STEM Learning Through Participatory Narratives

Teresa Cavazos Cohn, Erin James, Leda Kobziar, Jennifer Ladino, Kayla Bordelon, Jack Kredell, Jenny Wolf

funded by the National Science Foundation

Pic- Hang around photo after program (1).JPG

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

Stories of Fire is an interdisciplinary project that explores personal narratives of wildland fire and 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 fire science to support a better, more holistic, 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 explores:

1.   What characteristics of narrative inform fire science communication, and

2.   What audience-centered approaches best support participant narratives in informal STEM learning?

Our team works collaboratively with informal educators based in rural areas of Idaho, including the Sawtooth Interpretive Center, Ponderosa State Park, Celebration Park, the McCall Outdooor Science School, and Craters of the Moon National Monument.


This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2006101. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Learn more about the project.

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