94232 - History of Narratives of Scientific Dissemination for the Young

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Teaching and Communication of Natural Sciences (cod. 5704)

Learning outcomes

Popular science storytelling allows younger generations to get into the vast world of biological, physics and technical knowledge emerged from the historical processes of discovery and application of knowledge. The course aims to explore the wide repertoire of informative stories both from a historical point of view and from a theoretical point of view. At the end of the course, students will therefore be able to: (a) learn about the historical evolution of science popularization for children; (b) identify the fundamental characteristics of the main types of scientific dissemination for the new generations, analyzing the relationship between text-image and scientific content exposed; (c) have an in-depth knowledge of the current editorial landscape for children and adolescents dedicated to scientific dissemination; (d) being able to identify, also by comparative means, the editorial, graphic-textual, visual and content elements that characterize quality scientific dissemination aimed at children; (e) knowing how to recognize historically and pedagogically the terms of the relationship between youth imagery and scientific curiosity both in the field of popular non-fiction and in the field of fiction (especially science fiction, fantastic and horror); (f) being able to identify the contaminations, overlaps and discontinuities between popular non-fiction and scientific fiction (documentaries, films, TV series, video games) for children; (g) know how to identify and apply the fundamental terms of effective scientific dissemination communication in the field of non-fiction type publishing for children.

Course contents

The aim of this course is to offer consistent and systematic reflection on the popular science storytelling for children, teens and high school students. Nowadays, new generations meet science through various ways such as information books, television documentaries, picture books, stickers collections, websites and so on. But this is a process that has been going on for some time. Especially since the nineteenth century publishers, scientists, educators and other have been interested in producing books, pictures, toys that had as their purpose the approach of childhood to sciences. Popular science for children is therefore part of a long historical process that intersects not only the development of sciences, but also the progress of pedagogy, the dynamic changes of imagery, the history of childhood, the refinement of communication techniques and, finally, the cultural policies of the nations.

Specifically, the following contents will be probed:

  • The history of the popular science for children
  • The formal frames, narrative style and artistic features of the popular science for children: roles and intersections among culture industry, literature, information and pictures.
  • The cultural, political and scientific reasons and aims of the popular science.
  • The role of pedagogy to popular science for children.
  • The influence of imagery to popular science’s production and spread.


Discussions during the examination will focus on these three steps:

1- the contents of an introductory report at disposal at the beggining of the course; 

2- the contents of three books selected from the following proposals:

- R. Giovannoli, La scienza della fantascienza, Bompiani, Milano, 2015

- W. Grandi, Gli ingranaggi sognati. Scienza, fantasia e tecnologia nelle narrazioni per l'infanzia e l'adolescenza, FrancoAngeli, Milano, 2017

- E. Marazzi (a cura di), Letteratura e scienza nel libro per ragazzi tra XIX e XX secolo, Guerini e Associati, Milano, 2016

- E. Zanoni, Scienza, Patria, Religione. Antonio Stoppani e la cultura italiana dell'Ottocento, FrancoAngeli, Milano, 2014

3- the contents of two chapters selected from the following proposals:

- A. Ascenzi, R. Sani, Un genere poco fortunato in Italia: la divulgazione scientifica per l'infanzia e la gioventù in Idem, Storia e antologia della letteratura per l'infanzia nell'Italia dell'Ottocento, Volume II, FrancoAngeli, Milano, 2018, pp. 77-121.

- A. Cristini, Leggere per scoprire: i libri di divulgazione scientifica in M. Campagnaro (a cura di) Le terre della fantasia. Leggere la letteratura per l'infanzia e l'adolescenza, Donzelli Editore, Roma 2014, pp. 233-264.

- P.L. Gaspa, G. Giorello, Piante da fantascienza - Invasioni vegetali sugli schermi in Idem, Giardini del fantastico. Le meraviglie della botanica dal mito alla scienza in letteratura, cinema e fumetto, Edizioni ETS, Pisa, 2017, pp. 131-184

- W. Grandi, The Game of Gears. Technology in Non-Fiction Picturebooks, in G. Grilli (a cura di), Non-Fiction Picturebooks. Sharing Knowledge as an Aesthetic Experience, Edizioni ETS, Pisa, 2020, pp. 163-181.

- A. Materia, Capitolo I. Divulgazione dall'Almanacco ai Mass Media in Idem Raccontare la scoperta. La divulgazione scientifica tra testo giornalistico e radiotelevisivo, Bonanno Editore, Acireale-Roma, 2011, pp. 15-51.

- L. Swartz, Choosing and using Non-Fiction Picturebooks in the Classroom, in G. Grilli (a cura di), Non-Fiction Picturebooks. Sharing Knowledge as an Aesthetic Experience, Edizioni ETS, Pisa, 2020, pp. 183-203

Teaching methods

The course will consist of traditional lectures delivered in Italian. During each lesson the professor dedicates a part of the teaching to collective dialogue in order to process a conceptual map that will allow students to orient themselves in the contents, languages and topics discussed in the meeting.

Assessment methods

Learning will be assessed by oral examinations with individual interviews. Interview is designed to test the knowledge of the contents, the linguistic fluency , the ability to organize information that every student is able to master at the end of the course about the topics discussed during the lessons and shown in the texts.

Final score based on ../30 (18 is considered the minimum to pass the exam).

Inscription to the exam on Almaesami website.

If rejected at the exam, it is possible to have a second chance.

Teaching tools


Office hours

See the website of William Grandi


Quality education

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.