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Comic Books Aim To Inspire Science Students

As a parent, it can be difficult to find interesting, rewarding, worthwhile and fun activities for students interested in science. But the American Physical Society has created a gem that just might be a good time filler for your science savvy kids this summer.

The go-to organization for our nation’s physics teachers delivers the educationally solid There, you’ll find the PhysicQuest series, originally developed for classroom teachers, but can be used as a fabulous tool for homeschoolers and parents looking for fun science activities for their kids.

The program offers activities centered on a whole set of educationally-based comic books and has received praise from numerous teachers. PhysicsQuest aims to teach middle school students physics concepts, but its overarching goal is to give them a positive experience with physics. APS is focusing this program on middle school students because these grades have been identified as the point when many students lose interest in math and science.

Each school year, APS provides a free PhysicsQuest kit to registered 6-9th grade physical science classes, home school groups, science clubs, and after-school programs. The kit includes a user’s manual and materials for four physics experiments. But parents, teachers and homeschoolers can gather most if not all materials from home and use the teacher’s guide for the activities any time of year.

Middle school students can learn about topics in modern physics, including the properties of a laser, what’s hidden in a rainbow, why physicists sometimes claim there are 10 dimensions and why Wint-O-Green lifesavers spark in the dark while helping the main character, Spectra.

Spectra, a typical middle school student who happens also to be a human laser (a trait with often comic-tragic result)s, is featured in new comic books each year as part of a larger program that involves four physics home-based activities that coincide with the stories. Spectra and her middle school pals overcome various challenges and use physics knowledge to solve tricky dilemmas centered on some aspect of physics: laser technology, power, force, heat, and even fluid dynamics. The stories also dwell on the feelings, drama, and social interactions that middle school kids are so familiar with. By the time students complete all four activities, they have helped Spectra and her pals overcome the nefarious schemes of a meddling swim instructor. Justice prevails thanks to good science.

All in all, PhysicsQuest it is a valid educational experience and it has been well received in classrooms throughout the nation for a number of years. The stories, however, are fantasy in nature and some of the science in the comic books is sketchy. But kids are smart enough to know what is real and what is crazy stuff. Most importantly, the heart of the learning here is in the doing the activities themselves. These are well done indeed and certainly worth consideration.

Image via Physics Central/PhysicsQuest


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Dan Franck

Daniel H. Franck is director of science for K12. He developed the scope and sequence for all science courses for grades 3-12. Dr. Franck has also worked for Holt, Rinehart, Winston, Harcourt, Scholastic, Inc., and Discovery Channel, among others, in developing science textbooks as well as multimedia products for students from kindergarten through high school. He was part of a team of educational specialists that visited the nation of South Africa under the auspices of the U.S. Agency for International Development helping that nation's biology teachers restructure their national science curriculum. Dr. Franck has a Ph.D. in botany from the University of California, Berkeley and has been a professor of botany at the University of Wisconsin.

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Comic Books Aim To Inspire Science Students