By Colleen Kelley, Ph.D., and Hewitt Learning
How can learning chemistry foster family fun? Well, learning chemistry is a lot like learning music. Can you remember learning a song together as a family? Or perhaps you have several family members who play musical instruments together. In any case, the process of learning music can be fun for the whole family. Well, the same is true for learning chemistry – it can be fun for the whole family!
Learning music and learning chemistry may seem like two entirely different things, but they share more similarities than you might think. Both require the ability to interpret and understand symbols, the ability to become fluent in a new language, a deep understanding of fundamental principles and concepts, and the ability to apply those principles to new situations.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the ways learning music is like learning chemistry:
- Chemistry is based on symbols like “Ag” for the element silver or -CH3 to mean a methyl group. The translation of a symbol to a concept is also present in music. For example, the Treble Clef looks like a fancy letter “G” and indicates the higher range of notes, and a Bass Clef looks like backwards letter “C” and indicates the lower range of notes on a sheet of music. It takes time for anyone to become fluent in the understanding of symbols and is best learned through consistent repetition.
- Both music and chemistry require an understanding of patterns. In music, you must recognize patterns in melody, rhythm, and harmony to create a cohesive piece of music. In chemistry, you must recognize patterns in the behavior of atoms and molecules to predict chemical reactions and properties. The ability to recognize patterns is a valuable skill in both music and chemistry.
- Chemistry also has its own language, with terms like “valence electrons,” “electronegativity,” and “enthalpy” that require repeatedly using these terms in the context of problem solving to understand completely. Similarly, music has its own language, with terms like “chords,” “scales,” and “arpeggios” that may be unfamiliar to beginners. Learning to speak and understand these languages is a crucial part of both fields.
The comic books created as part of the M.C. Detective Agency series were carefully scaffolded to align with the learning objectives found in a 100-level college chemistry course. The juxtaposition of college-level chemistry learning outcomes with cute, funny, characters in a comic book format then begs the questions, “Who is the intended audience?” and “What age group are these comic books for?” The answer to both questions is that these comic books are intended for ANYONE who wants to learn fundamental concepts in chemistry that are traditionally taught in advanced high school courses or introductory college courses.
We encourage families to learn chemistry together using our comic books and embrace adopting a “beginner’s mindset” as the best way to do this. What is a “beginner’s mindset”? The term “beginner’s mindset” refers to a state of openness, curiosity, and eagerness to learn that characterizes someone who is new to a particular subject or skill. This mindset can be incredibly valuable not just for beginners, but for anyone seeking to grow and develop a deeper understanding. So, whether you are a 10-year-old just beginning chemistry, a 13-year-old who briefly learned about the Periodic Table, a 16-year-old who has completed a course in chemistry, or a parent who took chemistry eons ago, you will need to start from the same place.
With this in mind, our comic-book based curriculum takes learners together through our creative, fun, and robust stories. Some of our stories include little-known historical facts and others are a parody of familiar fictional stories, making them interesting and entertaining for the whole family.
A beginner’s mindset can also be incredibly useful when it comes to problem-solving…which is the whole premise of solving the mysteries in our M.C. Detective Agency series. When we’re new to a subject, we haven’t yet formed rigid ideas about how things “should” be done. Instead, we’re more likely to approach problems with fresh eyes and an open mind, looking for creative solutions rather than relying on established methods. This is helpful in our curriculum where we dislodge antiquated descriptions of atoms and molecules, for example, and replace them with accurate and correct descriptions.
A beginner’s mindset is associated with greater creativity. When you are not bound by preconceptions or biases, you are free to explore new ideas and solutions. This can lead to innovative thinking and problem-solving.
The stories, games and activities contained in the M.C. Detective Agency chemistry curriculum can be enjoyed by everyone and can create memories that will last a lifetime. One of the key benefits of The M.C. Detective Agency is that it provides an opportunity for everyone to disconnect from their screens and devices while engaging in learning chemistry. By spending time together and participating in learning as a family, parents and children alike can build stronger relationships, improve communication, and learn new things about chemistry and each other.