Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) can inform the personal decisions and civic debates of young people and adults. Unfortunately for many students, STEM as typically taught in schools may appear inaccessible, disconnected from lived experience, or siloed from everyday contexts. Inviting young people to author infographics can aid them in:
- making sense of science and data related to topics they care about
- seeing science as relevant to their lives and everyday experiences
- knowing how to find, synthesize, and analyze credible science information and data
- communicating with their peers and families about the implications of science for society
We have found that using infographics in high schools and out-of-school programs for teens is not only beneficial for STEM learning, but across other disciplines as well. In all cases, students are afforded the opportunity to make empirically backed and visually appealing argumentative claims, rather than simply parroting content they find. Learning experiences focused on infographic authoring hold promise to increase active engagement of learners, and cultivation of putting science to use in their own lives and the lives of others.
Watch the videos below to hear what our teachers have to say about creating infographics with their students in their classes.
Making it Matter
Student Personal Relevance
I had more fun doing this [than writing a paper]. I liked creating visuals and it was not a ton of writing but it still communicated the information.
My parents are always telling me not to drink soda or things with high fructose corn syrup and I just wanted to see if it was actually as bad as everyone said it was.
It was cool to apply the formulas and science we learned in class to actual things we were doing, like playing soccer.
A lot of the stuff I had to read was really hard, because it was science journals… I could use some of the general stuff, but other things I had no idea what they were talking about.
Initially I had a real simple process diagram, but that evolved as I got more comfortable talking about the research.
The [infographic project] was really good, because it made you understand your topic really well if you were going to share it with people.
The feedback activity was good because you could compare what you wanted people to take away from what they actually were taking away from.
[The research process] was very hard, because this is very recent and there are not great sources to look at about this bacteria. It was really hard to find statistics and data about McDonalds, it’s like they keep it a secret or something.
This is really interesting, the data part, right now it is not a concern but I looked at this graph, its like a prediction, in 2050 micro-bacterial infections will be higher than cancer, so we should start researching… more research needs to be done to prevent future problems.
If I was going to read an infographic I would not want to read a bunch of text… If it is for kids or students it is much more visually attractive to see pictures and it really helps the reader understand. The images basically show the effects [of bacteria].
It really helps the students, because not only doing, but also others understanding, it makes it more easy to understand and learn from it rather than just reading about it or doing an essay or something.
I wanted to compare the most popular kinds of protein, because me, I’m an athlete and need to be in shape for sports, so I wanted to see which ones are better. I give the chemistry side first and then talk about which ones to use.
I thought about a lot of topics, but chose this because I related to it most and it mattered to me so I actually wanted to do research on it.
[Infographics] are a lot more fun to do, compared to an essay. Showing the visuals is easier to communicate that writing a five page essay.
This is totally different [than doing a research paper]. You could write a paper, but will it really grab the attention of your audience? A lot of people don’t like reading, so I feel like the infographic has the main information, with the infographic you pick out what you really want the audience to learn. It gets the information out there, the information the people really need to know.
I could pick any topic, I started with something I was already interested in, the education system and the flaws within it. Why did I pick this. I feel like this [topic] is very major… This is biomagnification right here… mercury is affecting us humans.
I think my main goal was just to give them a passion project, almost; something that they were really interested in researching and let them really go and see what information’s out there and see how it lined up with their own thoughts and let them explore that new information.
I think my favorite part was seeing how the students could create something unique, take data and portray it in a way I haven’t seen it before, and just seeing the students do that is not something I see as often as I wish I could.
The medium that they were using of the infographic helped to have them make more personal connections with the data and the concepts. I really believe it helped them make more personal connections. Writing a report I don’t think would have done that. Having a test? No. But this intimate back and forth, constant revision, that ability where it’s not ever over; it’s always revise, revise.
I saw it as a good final project format for students to create something that integrated several divergent lines of thinking into a final product that they could also take a lot of pride in, so that was one.
The theory was to take this individual information, like I saw this happen to me and then relate it to scientific knowledge, and then relate it to a way that would be somehow informational to the community.
I think when I went to the infographics institute, It was like a lightbulb…I think so often trying to get students to integrate things in different ways and how to present it is challenging, and so infographics are like this perfect vehicle where I could…look at this data from your life and then integrate it in a way that you are not just typing up a paper, like a boring rote thing, but really be able to see how they are integrating all these things.
So it is really interesting to see, for me as an instructor from a formative and then summative perspective like how they are putting these things together, how are they seeing this.
Let’s really talk about it in real life, this is real life it is not just a class. and if you drill down to that base level, you have to be interdisciplinary.
Students really did link to this opportunity to find the relevance of chemistry content and how it related to their personal interest.
Some of the advantages of doing an infographic over some other type of project were that it does have to be original… the infographic had to look different than something anyone else would have made.
I want them to have original stuff …. I want them working with real data, not some journalistic watered down version of a story.
I think there is a piece to say about using argumentative driven inquiry as a starting point for this. Teach kids how to make evidence about claims on a whiteboard. Start there.
They need a lot of practice on claims and evidence before they create a project like this.
So the infographic was a way for me to try to get them to go deeper and to understand it more. And by tying together images with actual quantitative data for physics or for the chemistry there, their graphs and the data that they actually sourced out, I think it helps them to get a more well-rounded picture. That’s more understanding.