Lifeology courses are intended to introduce people to science and answers to scientific questions that relate to their life in some way, without getting so lost in nitty gritty details and jargon that people get intimidated and think science isn’t for them.
We encourage you to work closely with our Lifeology team members including Paige Jarreau (firstname.lastname@example.org) as you are creating your own Lifeology course content and card deck!
Submitting content already formatted as cards is optional – submit your content in any format you’d like, and we can translate and format it for you! Send us a Google Doc complete with as many of the Lifeology course “ingredients” below as you can or have time to. We can take it from there. We will coordinate with you at every step of the course translation, illustration and publishing process.
Pose a single question that you’ll answer in this course: What is ___? / How does ____ do ____?
Keep the lay reader in mind – what question would THEY have about this topic?
Example: What is aging?
Describe what the course will cover and what the reader will/should ideally walk away knowing. Keep the reader in mind – what do THEY need or want to know about this topic, and why?
Avoid creating course content and course cards that focus on communicating scientific concepts for their own sake, e.g. textbook knowledge about DNA that only medical students need to know for their exams.
Write it down: What are the most important things that you could communicate in this course for a lay audience? WHY is the average person going to care about or be interested in the answer to the question that this course poses? WHAT does the average person need to know about this (for example, for the purpose of making better health decisions, understanding what their doctor is talking about, having the correct mental model to understand new information they receive about this topic in the future, etc.).
If you simply want people taking this course to understand some basic science principles, it will be critical to focus on storytelling and bringing in “characters” and processes that people are already familiar and care about. Also take advantage of natural curiosity – what do you find super interesting within the answer to the question that you are addressing in this course?
Example: Cover the concept of biological aging and how it is fundamentally the accumulation of damage and the deterioration of integrated function; but how aging occurs at different rates across the tree of life (and people) and how to age more slowly.
What is the story arc of this course? Is there an existing “mental model” (like a Cinderella story, a story of struggle and self-discovery, etc.) that you can use to frame this course, to help readers understand the content better? Who are the “characters” of this course? What is the plot? Is there a climatic moment (like a revelation in the form of new knowledge)?
Example: The tortoise and the hare; a twist to this story where the race pertains to longevity and the Turtle wins the longevity race by aging slowly thanks to DNA repair.
Suggest a tone for this course, that may be reflected in the storytelling as well as the art.
Example: Illustrations can be cute and fun, to offset the sombre subject of aging and make it a more accessible concept to young readers.
Who is the target audience for this course? Describe an individual in the audience, by age, demographics. What does this individual care about? Why are they taking this course? What do they want to know about this topic/question?
What is the setting that the user will be in when consuming this course? Is this course likely to be viewed within a clinical setting / during a patient visit? Is this something that a user will likely consume at home, at his/her own leisure and interest? How/where will the user likely access this course?
This is the “meat” of the Lifeology course! The course will be made up of illustrated flashcards with short text on them. Each card should only have 1 sentence (or 2 VERY short ones) on it, limited to 80-90 characters total. It is best for the text for each card to not take up more than a single bulleted line in the format of this Google doc. Try to create under 30 cards for the course if possible.
Keep in mind that each card will have to have custom art created for it! Be as succinct as possible. Avoid adding two cards that essentially say the same thing but in different words (no filler words or sentences!). Each card should communicate 1 main point that is clear enough for an illustrator with no scientific background to understand it and illustrate. You can suggest illustration ideas for each of your cards / bullet points below, if you’d like, keeping in mind that the artist will make the final call on what the art will show and represent to improve enjoyment and understanding of the text on the card.
Example illustrated Lifeology card. Lifeology cards can also contain short videos and animations, as well as hyperlinks.
Card Instructions: Content for cards should be bulleted out in bite-size pieces as below. Use simple language and keep jargon to an absolute minimum.
- Introduction card – What can the reader expect to learn from this course?
- Early in the card deck, establish a storyline and/or characters, or start with some interesting details, an key exemplar or analogy.
- Develop the storyline and integrate it with the message / educational content you want to get across.
- Set a 10,000-foot view of this topic, OR point out something this is popular or correct according to current knowledge but that you’ll be helping the reader to see in a different way, OR use your storyline and characters to start to introduce your main scientific message.
- Get into the details.
- Include some “Intermission” cards between “sections” of cards where appropriate to help with flow, like “Now you know about X. But what about Y? Let’s look at Y and how it affects you…” “In the next few cards, we will look at / explain X”.
- Introduce concepts before you introduce jargon terms; where you introduce these terms, bold them. Example: Cells can become like zombies that eat and grow, but can’t divide to create healthy daughter cells. Cells in this zombie-like state are called senescent cells.
- If appropriate, include related fun facts, famous quotes, information about historical dates/people, curious or mind-tickling examples and other fun science bites.
- Make sure that every sentence/card helps to address the question you are tackling in this course. Leave out details that don’t matter to anyone except for other scientists, or cards that don’t help you achieve the objectives for this course.
- Keep pulling your primary story-arc through the course. Avoid mixing different analogies/metaphors if you could keep using ones that relate to the primary story-arc / characters / plot you introduced, or the popular mental mental you are using.
- Boil it down – Provide some cards that give the viewer learnings to take away or actions to consider. How can they apply this knowledge? How does what you just covered apply to their daily lives?
- OR, end by returning to your story arc and characters you introduced in the beginning.
- Include an optional Summary card that summarizes, big picture, what the viewer has learned.
- Sources card: Provide scientific sources (title, year and doi if possible) and hyperlinks for more reading/learning.
Example: What is intermittent fasting?
Example: What is mindfulness?
- Intro card: The course will teach you about mindfulness, and how and why to practice it. But first, a story!
- A turtle was eating grass by the bank of a stream when he saw a fox staring at him from the opposite shore.
- The fox thought himself lucky to have found a yummy lunch. He leapt across the stream.
- The turtle, seeing the fox coming, considered turning to run. But he knew he wasn’t fast enough.
- “What can I do?” the turtle thought. He realized that the best thing he could do was retreat into his shell.
- The turtle pulled his limbs and head tightly into his shell as the fox approached and walked circles around him.
- “As soon as he sticks his head out, I’ll eat!” thought the fox. But he waited… and he waited…
- The turtle stayed calm. He waited patiently, observing the Fox without fear or anxiety.
- Confident in his shell, the turtle even started to observe his situation with curiosity, as if he were watching as a bystander.
- This curiosity allowed him not to panic, even as the fox sniffed and scratched his shell.
- Eventually, the Fox got tired and wandered away. The turtle enjoyed his lunch in peace.
- Buddhist monk Bhante Saranapala tells this story to explain mindfulness.
- You are the turtle. You have many foxes in your life – stress, negative coworkers, pain, emotional struggles, anxiety, fear.
- You can’t always run from your foxes. But you can use the shell of mindfulness to protect yourself.
- Mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the “now”, observing your present experience without judgement.
- Mindfulness – being the turtle – doesn’t mean that you wall yourself off from the world. To the contrary, you observe.
- Being mindful means observing and inhabiting the present moment with all of your senses…
- Being mindful also means not judging or getting captivated by thoughts and feelings that come at you like foxes.
- Intermission card: In the next cards, we will provide some mindfulness prompts. If you’d like, find a comfortable seat and practice them.
- To be mindful, simply breathe. Whatever you are feeling right now, acknowledge it, let it pass.
- Focus on the rhythm of your breath – in, out, inhale, exhale. Get curious about your breath.
- Has your mind wandered, to a memory or a to-do list item? Gently bring your attention back to your breath.
- Tune into what is happening for you right now. Do you feel tense? Anxious? Hungry?
- Breathe and watch this feeling as if it were a fox in the woods. You don’t need to engage with it – just notice it.
- Slowly, with mindfulness, you won’t need to distract or punish yourself for having negative thoughts and feelings.
- Instead, you can calm your mind and make friends with all of your experiences.
- Mindfulness can help you to get curious about things you “dislike” while waking you up to moments of joy and peace.
- But why should you practice mindfulness? It can help lower your stress levels and even improve your health.
- The Dalai Lama writes that “a calm mind is essential for good health.”
- Mindfulness quiets areas of the brain associated with mind wandering, anxiety and negative thought loops.
- Practicing mindfulness trains your mind, like weight lifting trains your muscles, to better recover from stress.
- Mindfulness practice may even lower your blood pressure and levels of inflammation in your body!
- Mindfulness is not the same thing as relaxing, watching Netflix, journaling or sleeping.
- At its core, mindfulness is insight into your automatic thought patterns and the ability to focus your attention.
- So take some time today to be a turtle! Focus on your breath and how your body feels now, not yesterday or tomorrow.
- Sources card: Goleman & Richardson, 2017, ISBN-10:0399184384; Bhante Saranapala, 2017, UrbanBuddhistMonk – Dharma Talk; Brewer et al., 2011, doi;10.1073/pnas.1112029108
Links and Resources:
Provide additional materials that can help your course artist and storyteller translate your work into a Lifeology course. You can link a full research paper or another piece of content that would be good background information.
Provide a short biography about yourself, a headshot, and your official title and credentials!