Kids' Chemical Solutions

Capturing Early Eager Learners with Chemistry Comics

Research

After seeing inequities in science education throughout my 30-year teaching career, I decided to take a novel approach to solving this problem. I began writing comic books to help kids better understand the fundamentals of chemistry.

About half of college students who start out majoring in the sciences don’t finish those degrees. A 2020 study in the peer-reviewed journal found that students from all backgrounds enter college intending to major in a science field at the same rate. But underrepresented minorities’ low performance relative to their capabilities in required college chemistry courses contributed to their especially high attrition rates in science majors.

The age-old question for me continues to be…WHY are these students failing chemistry at such high rates?

My research uncovered an answer to this question. Fundamentally, learning chemistry is like learning to read and students entering college are, for the most part, molecularly illiterate. If you consider the Periodic Table the alphabet of science, formulas are the words of science, and chemical equations are sentences, then you can see strategically how both reading and chemistry follow the same paradigm for learning. What I discovered is the best time to teach kids chemistry is right after they have learned to read (ages 8+) so that they can use the same neural pathways and strategies to become Molecularly Literate. 

Hence, I created this comic book series that scaffolds the learning objectives found in a 100-level college chemistry course to be used to teach chemistry to students ages 8+. I piloted this program for 14 weeks in a 4th grade classroom with 95% of the students mastering college chemistry concepts and NGSS standards. I now feel an urgency to increase Molecular Literacy on a global scale.

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