Superheroes have always held the imaginations and attention of kids since their creation. These interests in kids’ lives have even extended well into adulthood, with just as many adults going to see cinematic recreations of these idols as there are children. So naturally, educators are interested in partnering up with the ‘good guys’ to teach lasting lessons that will stick with these children throughout life. But how can we do this effectively without deviating too much from the essentials of the concepts being taught?
One example that jumps to my mind immediately when asked about science and superheroes is Bob Kane’s creation, Batman. In these stories, Batman uses science to design all of his gadgets and catching the villains. Something that the Batman comics do that most others don’t is that everything in these stories is realistic. There are no supernatural powers or extraterrestrial beings lending a hand to planet Earth. Rather, Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) uses his massive fortune and intimate knowledge of science to provide a safer environment for the fictitious city of Gotham.
But how can we incorporate this into our science lessons? There are a couple of branches of science that can be discussed here. For example, physics can be explained using some of the stunts that Batman pulls during his nightly raids. Jumping from a roof and gliding down with his cape can be used to discuss wind resistance (or the lack thereof), weight versus gravity, etc. Chemistry is brought to the table of discussion when dealing with Batman bulletproof outfit, namely the chest plate. What types of materials are bulletproof? What chemical compounds are used to allow for such durability?
While Batman is a good primary source of scientific investigations throughout the comic book world, he isn’t the only one that incorporates science. We can take a look at Stan Lee’s creation, Spiderman and the villains incorporated in that world. Spiderman’s character was created using science (radioactive bite from a spider). A discussion of radiation and the effects on the human body could ensue. Even the topic of Green Goblin (one of Spiderman’s nemeses) could hint at physics (the ability to fly around on a bat-like contraption). Perhaps even the existence of Hobgoblin (created from ingestion of a serum that was supposed to enhance human abilities) could nod toward chemistry.
All of these examples and more could lead a very interesting lesson for kids in science. While all of these scientific instances are highly exaggerated, it does provide a basis in which kids are allowed to think creatively about science and apply what they learned in class to something they would normally be interested in anyway: crime-fighting, uniquely-attired childhood heros.