Watch the 2011 Tell Us a Story finalists’ enchanting science tales on our youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/storytellingscience?feature=watch


Now the grand finale is over and done with we can announce the winners of Tell Us a Story 2011. All the finalists (in fact all the contestants) did an AMAZING job, but the overall winners were:

Audience Prize (as voted at the Special Edition of Nerdnite)

Mohammed Azeem

Second Prize Prize (as decided by the judges at the Grand Finale)

Mohammed Azeem

First Prize (as decided by the judges at the Grand Finale)

Paul Mensink

And don’t worry if you missed it - recording of the entire evening can be viewed here at our youtube channel.

And if want to know more about the stories behind each of our magnificent contestants we will be profiling them here over the next week.


Last week we had the heats of the Tell Us a Story Challenge and were blown away by the quality of the stories. After some difficult deliberating, it is our pleasure to announce (in no particular order) the Tell Us a Story Finalists 2011:

Drum Roll….

Juan Rada-Vilela - On life, the universe and artificial intelligence 

Fabian Westermann - War of the Worlds!

Riyad Mucadam - From the tiniest unit of the universe to the largest

Alexis Garland - language, animals, adventures and real life fairy tales

Paul Mensink - an extraordinary fish story (made me cry!)

Muhammed Azeem- The story of Daniel of Morley - 12th Century Scholar

Alex Barker- My all time top five electric shocks!

Kerry Charles - “No child Left inside” - mud, pigeons and conservation

Laura McKim- Hold on to your credit cards for this one

Tapukitea Vea - The wanna be scientist from the hood

You can come an hear the finalists stories at our two shows this week:

Nerd Nite Special: 6pm Monday 17th October; Club Ivy, 13 Dixon Street - vote on the PGSA audience prize winner.

Grand Finale Prize Giving: Thursday 20th October; Memorial Theatre, Student Union Building, Victoria Kelburn Campus. Book your free tickets here.

Stories will be mixed with music made live on the loop machine by hosts Loo and Elf.

Come along! It will be an experience to remember!


To celebrate some of the wonderful stories we have heard already in the heats, we have begun posting them online via our youtube channel here

We are not posting all the stories (not yet anyway) and being posted or not has no bearing on whether these talks will be part of the finals next week - that announcement will come on Friday this week!

These are simply interesting examples of the sorts of this the ‘Tell Us a Story’ competition has bought out of the woodwork - and we will endeavour to post more every day!


A beautifully simple story from a world famous entomologist, Thomas Eisner.

I just received this video from my mentor Ruud Kleinpaste (aka “The Bugman”) from TV along with the following message:

I literally just learned that one of my heroes in Life, died, last March, when I was distracted by the quake and its associated hassles.
I was going to email him to see how his health was, but now it looks as if I’d better get in touch with Maria, his wife…
so sad.

Tom Eisner was a brilliant scientist and a beautiful man.
He was also a fabulous communicator (if you have a chance: get his book For Love of Insects)
and while trawling through his life I came across this little story

so him!

Just thought you may see the beauty of it


Ever wondered what humanity’s effect on the planet is and whether someone flying over would notice we were here? This video from the front of the ISS may help answer your questions


Check out these Youtube tutorials on storytelling by Ira Glass, the presenter of the brilliant radio show - “This American Life”. The first one lays out the basic building blocks of stories - anecdotes and moments of reflection. You need both for the story to come together.

The four parts and well worth watching and could really help you work out your story for the challenge.



On Monday we kicked off the Tell Us a Story program with storyteller Will Waterson’s awesome workshop - Finding Your Story. For those of you that missed out, or would like a refresher, we’ve prepared a video of the workshop and summary notes. We’ll be sending the password to watch the video out to challenge participants and workshop attendees (as workshops such as these are Will’s livelihood we can’t make it completely public).

And to finish with - a quote from the workshop:

The storyteller needs to offer herself or himself as part of the story. People decide to follow us because our story creates a relationship they can trust and draw hope from, because they feel an important connection with us” – Steven Denning, Program Director of Knowledge Management at the World Bank


I just read this article in New Scientist that describes how our brain interprets all our feelings, actions and experiences in the form of stories. The scientist in the article, Michael Gazzaniga, believes that this is what creates our sense of a unified self. (click here to download pdf)

So without stories, we might feel like fragments floating in a sea of meaninglessness?

In preparation for Tell Us a Story, I’ve been reading a little about the two sides of our brains. This is what I’ve figured out: In science we do lots of analysis and logical reasoning, which happens mostly in the left hemisphere of our brains (forgive my simplistic interpretation). Using our “left brains” we can conjure awesome strategies for all kinds of problems from climate change to cancer. Logic provides the HOW. But it doesn’t give people the emotional kick in the pants to act on those strategies. Only stories can do that. And stories are created in the right hemisphere of our brains. Stories evoke emotions like love, and jealousy and inspiration that move us to action. They provide the WHY.

If we want people to take note of science; if we want our research to inform the way the world works, we need to tell stories!

Registration deadline for the challenge is today.


What is it about sport that gets people SO excited? And why aren’t they screaming and shouting about science? According to this article from The Punch it’s all about the story:


People love sport because of the narrative – a rugby team from a tiny country at the bottom of the world that have worked REALLY hard, been set back by failure but are back to face the world again! Will they win this time?

It’s a great story!

People understand the pain. They understand trying REALLY hard. They understand failure and eventual triumph. And if the All Blacks win it will bring tears to (some of) our eyes!  We’ll all get to share a little of the triumph.

Why doesn’t the public engage in the stories of science like that? It has all the same story elements: hard work; odds stacked against you; failure; believing in yourself and triumphing against the odds.

Imagine an audience shedding tears at hearing your story? Imagine their relief when your results come through after years of hard work and careful preparation! Imagine them echoing your cries of delight when it finally works. Dancing through the streets of Wellington rejoicing… Yippeee!

That’s a good story!