Hands-on lessons are a perennial favorite in the classroom for both students and teachers. Students typically learn best when they are personally invested in the lesson — the more attention paid to the topic at hand, the better! Getting students involved in a hands-on way for STEM can take many forms. Why not try educational comics or graphic novels? Making a comic is a fantastic exercise in artistic expression: throwing some STEM into the mix makes it all the better.
The following lesson plan concept is aimed primarily at elementary school students. Of course, feel free to adapt it to any age group (the only real change would be the complexity of the STEM topic).
The goal is for students to create a short comic book or graphic novel that will spark further interest in the STEM fields.
The students will watch a short video clip to introduce them to the idea of technology changing over time. The students will then be divided into small groups. Each group will work together to produce a short graphic novel or comic book that will show how the students feel the world will change in the future.
Lesson Introduction and Hook (~2-5 min)
The teacher will show the students this YouTube video clip from the old cartoon show The Jetsons. Before showing the students the clip, ask the students to try to remember one ‘takeaway’ from the clip — some piece of technology, clothing, or social mannerism that does not exist in today’s world.
Once the clip is over, allow the students a minute to consider what they have seen. Ask some of the following questions to engage students and incentivize discussion:
- What did you see the Jetsons do in the clip that seemed impossible?
- What similarities exist between you, your family, and the Jetsons?
- Do you want a flying car (who doesn’t?)
Task Preparation (~5 min)
With the students divided into groups of 3-4 students (depending on the size of your class), hand out copies of this one-page, single-panel comic. Have the students read the comic. Once each group has read the comic, have a brief discussion about the comic as a class.
- This is “what kind” of book? (Comic book).
- Does the Sun end up wearing pants?
- What happens to the pants the Sun puts on?
Now that the students understand the idea of technology in the future (The Jetsons) and have an idea of how comic books work (Unearthed Comics), each group will produce a short (1-2 page, depending on time) comic book.
Ask the students to do the following:
- Write a short, 1-2 page comic book that takes place in the future.
- The hero of their story can be anyone — an elementary student, an astronaut, a superhero, etc.
- The hero must encounter or use at least one “futuristic thing” that the students find amusing or interesting (flying cars, robot dogs, teleportation, and so on).
- The goal here is for the students to actively engage in thinking about the ways in which science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can change the world they live in.
- Depending on your class size and length, aim for 15-20 minutes of writing and illustration time.
Once the students have completed their comics, ask for volunteers to share. After each group has shared, ask clarifying questions to the class regarding what sort of technology the comic has shown (and whether they, too, would like a robot cat!).