One of the recurring questions when talking to STEM educators is how to get kids and teenagers more interested in STEM subjects. Teaching science through science fiction appeals to kids as it sparkles their imagination. Instead of teaching gravity through a text book, why not watch “2001: A Space Odyssey”, as a starting point to talk about gravitational forces? Even when it comes to purely fictional stories, those could still be used to learn the classroom. Just check this video “The Zombie Autopsies 101” where Steven Schlozman (Professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and “Zombie Consultant” on Hollywood films) demonstrates how you can use zombie movies as means to explain the different parts of a human brain.
It is astonishing the amount of scientific issues that are treated in Sci-Fi products. Questions on energy and sustainability, climate change, astronomy, medicine or transportation are common features on fictional movies. Hence, educators are provided with a wide array of sources that will be able to use for different subjects in science and technology lessons. Furthermore, they will be promoting what is called “Connected Learning”; a model of learning that mixes personal interests, relationships with your peers, and academic and career achievement.
Nevertheless, one should be careful with Science fiction. Although it does stimulate kids and make them think out of the box, we must not forget: Most science fiction products contain a lot more fiction than science. Yes, the X-men comics pose the question of genetic alteration but it is still a fictional use of DNA for the superhero genre and that is, in the end, pure fiction. How can we ensure that our students learn the real concepts and not those engraved in the realm of science fiction?
1. After reading this article on the benefits of teaching science fiction, discuss about the relationship between science and science fiction. Is SciFi important for our technological advancement? What can we profit from it?
2. Discuss on the pros and cons of using Science Fiction examples and activities with your students. Will it encourage them to be interested in Science? Or, on the contrary, do you think it can confuse them during their learning process?