Two of my favorite possessions are graphic novels I got at ComicCon two years ago. One is the story of Marie Curie (pioneering researcher of radioactivity and the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes). The other is about Hedy Lamarr (actress, spy, cryptographer, spectrum hopper). Both novels are in a series called Dignifying Science: Stories About Women Scientists.
Comic books and graphic novels are fast becoming a way to teach alternative learners how to read and how to learn. In some cases, they are used to teach girls about women in the sciences that they never would have known about.
The term STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Traditionally, it has been used to discuss how to get more girls to study these subjects in college since these are the subjects usually underrepresented by women.
Recently, the Obama Administration has launched Educate to Innovate, which is a widespread appeal to bring more students into these fields as they will be the ones to become key components of national security.
A recent study by Purdue University [pdf] shows that there is a “crisis” identified in the area of global technological competitiveness. It mentions overall retention and enrollment rates over the past six years as lower than ever before.
Enter comic books, graphic novels and of course, a gaming contest. The National Game Design competition is open to everyone from middle school to educators, and the goal is “to motivate interest in STEM learning among America’s youth by tapping into students’ natural passion for playing and making video games.”
This is not a new idea. In 1953, the company General Electric (GE) started printing comics in runs of up to three million in order to attract young minds to science.
It is a smart move on the administration’s part to reintroduce comics and graphic novels as a way to attract, entice and generally just make science cool again.
Photo credit: Terry McCombs