Thursday, June 10, 2021

Announcing "A People's Natural History" and inviting your voice to join the StoryCorps archive

 Hello all,

While people can continue to diversify the professional study and communication of human origins and evolution, we can do something else to help humankind write a natural history that's fit for all humankind. 

We can listen to humankind tell their story.

No matter where we call home, no matter what we do for a living, no matter how many degrees we have, no matter how many facts and fossils we know, no matter how religious (or not) we are, it's our voices that make up the story of where we came from, how we got here, how we fit in nature, and what it all means.

This is the real story of human evolution--how we understand it and incorporate it into our lives, our worldviews. 

So, to hear those voices, I've created a Community at the StoryCorps Archive to curate people's stories about and related to evolution, cosmology, their place in nature, their Jurassic Park fantasies, and any other stories that people think fall under the category of natural history. 

Our community is called A People's Natural History (aka APNH).

I just love StoryCorps. Their motto is "Listen. Honor. Share." And my zoom instructor for the DIY course had the sign "LISTENING IS AN ACT OF LOVE" hung up on her wall. 

I'm announcing A People's Natural History here before I've even posted a story of my own because I want the link to this blog post with this information to launch with that recording. And... I don't care if anyone else beats me to it. I'd be thrilled and would relish the opportunity to listen so soon to our first archived recording! Mine will be there shortly.

Please note that A People's Natural History is not a podcast. It is not for my profit (or StoryCorps'). It is not a research project (though it may inspire and inform some, separately). And it is not #scicomm (ditto). It's just something that I believe in and am helping to contribute.

Later in the summer I'll share ideas for how folks may incorporate A People's Natural History into their courses. For now, I just wanted you all to know it's live.

Our natural history belongs to every person on this planet—whether or not we agree on how to tell the stories of the ancient past and how to incorporate them into our views of life, death, religion, spirituality, and love. Through our diverse personal lenses, we are writing humanity’s epic tale, our shared story, together.

I hope to hear you there! 

love & evolution,


Here's how to participate in APNH

1. Find a partner for this project (friend, neighbor, parent, offspring, sibling, ...) and prepare for your interview/conversation (see “How to prepare…” below). They must be 13 years or older. (I know that's disappointing, but SC is protecting children's internet privacy, which is not disappointing.)

2. Download the StoryCorps App (for an in-person interview with your partner on your phone) or StoryCorps Connect (for a remote interview with your partner). To learn how, go here: 

3. Find a good time and place to make your recording, schedule it with your partner

4. Make your recording in a quiet place, phones turned off. Signal that you'd like to pause any time by making the time-out gesture.

5. While together, just after your conversation, decide whether to make your contribution public in the archive, or to keep it private. 

6. Add the keywords “A People’s Natural History” and “APNH” and archive your recording with the “A People’s Natural History” Community. Don't forget to add as many other keywords as you wish to help people find or stumble across your recording. 

Here's how to prepare for your recorded conversation for APNH

Write your questions and share them a few weeks out from your scheduled recording date with your partner. Together, discuss themes/topics you wish to cover, what you (both) would not like to discuss, and suggest about 5 questions that you could ask your partner.

A thoughtful question can open up an entire thread of conversation. Feel free to develop your own questions or use the Great Questions for inspiration. It can be helpful to start with some general questions before asking about more complex subjects.

There's a list of suggested questions (themed around natural history) at the APNH community page. See the bottom right of the screen here. As you prepare your questions (e.g. Tell me the story of how where people come from. What's your favorite animal and what's the story there? How do you commune with nature? Why do you love dinosaurs so much? etc....), you may wish to use any combination of those APNH suggested questions, grouped by theme, or none of them. But do keep in mind the APNH theme of natural history and the goal of inclusion (e.g. of religious beliefs, spirituality, less than cutting edge evolutionary science). 

When you’re recording, it’s possible that you’ll disagree on some things and that’s okay. Listen without being adversarial. Disagree without being self-righteous. 

You will have up to 40 minutes for your recording, but shorter ones may be more accessible to the public so please keep that in mind. 

Great follow-up Questions

How did that make you feel?

What happened next?

Can you remember a specific time…?

Can you give me an example?

Can you paint a picture in words?

What were you thinking when that happened?

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Questions? holly_dunsworth at uri dot edu