Kids' Chemical Solutions

Capturing Early Eager Learners with Chemistry Comics

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Using Comic Books to Teach Chemistry to Students

“The best time to start something was yesterday. The second-best time is now.”

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 of these questions is that these comic books are intended ANYONE who wants to learn fundamental concepts in chemistry that are traditionally taught in advanced high school courses or introductory college courses. The age 8 was set due to the reading level of the comic books and do not imply that they are only for elementary school students.

Consider this analogy. You want to learn how to play the piano. Where do you start? Is there a different beginning for 8-year-olds than for 58-year-olds? No. Both students would start at the beginning learning fundamental notes on a sheet of music and the location of those notes on a keyboard.

Could an 8-year-old learn at the same rate and level as the 58-year-old? Yes. The younger student and the older student have the same starting point…..starting from the beginning. Now let’s pivot to learning chemistry. Say you want to learn how to write and balance a chemical equation (a common learning objective found in college-level chemistry). An 8-year-old and a 58-year-old would both start with learning the names and symbols of elements followed by navigating the Periodic Table. The names and symbols of elements are like the musical notes and the Periodic Table is like the keyboard.

If you’re following, you’ll see two things. The first is that the comic books in the M.C. Detective Agency are an excellent way for elementary school, middle school, high school, college, and those returning to college (for example to change careers and go into a medical field) students to learn chemistry. The outcomes for each group will be the same – mastery of college level chemistry concepts. The second is that this represents a huge change in how we think of what should be included in elementary school education. 

Our research has shown that classrooms of 4th grade students have fun learning and mastering advanced chemistry concepts with our comic books. This is the best time to start. That said, we recognize that teachers and parents will need to learn along with the students as it is likely that may not be fluent in chemistry. Learning along with another generation is incredibly meaningful. We should embrace that instead of being embarrassed that we don’t know more than a younger generation. Heck, at age 55, Marie Curie was taught to swim by her two daughters. Swimming then became her respite from the stress of being a celebrity scientist. If a two-time Nobel Prize winning scientist can adopt a beginners mindset…we can too!

As we say in each comic book – “Pack your bags, bring your brains, and we’ll give you a Periodic Table free. On the house.”

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