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Austin Schoolteacher Using Superheroes to Teach Science

Ted Ed Radio

The non-profit organization famous for its inspirational talks and videos, TED, has taken the lesson plan of an Austin school district teacher and turned it into an animated video series.

Linder Elementary employee Joy Lin decided to use pop culture to teach science when she was teaching at the Travis County Juvenile Detention center.

“We’re dealing with students ages 10 to 17 – and a lot of them haven’t been to school very much and they definitely were not interested in textbooks," Lin says. 

At first, she tried teaching using pop culture references. She began to show students super hero movies to demonstrate physics. Usually, she discusses a scientific concept with students and then shows a movie clip to explain it – or show how the movie didn’t use science properly. One of the first movies she used was Spiderman.

“There was one scene where Peter Parker grabs Mary Jane and they’re swinging from screen left to screen right but when they focus on her face her hair was not flying in the right direction, that’s Newton’s first law, that’s inertia," Lin explains.

Last year, Ted-Ed – the educational arm of TED – paired up with Kohls department stores to produce a series of videos called Lessons Worth Sharing from teachers across the country. Lin submitted her lesson idea and was one of the winners. She worked with video developers to create six different videos about Shifting body size and content, super speed, flight, super strength, immortality, and invisibility. Popular voice actor James Arnold Taylor narrates the three-minute videos.

Lin says she hopes the videos will encourage students to see science as they move through the world around us.

“At least it opens the door to the possibility of maybe, if they’re talented at it or interested in it, maybe it will lead to more career choices in the future," she says. 

Lin is currently preparing new lessons for students at Linder Elementary School, where she works as a math curriculum specialist. Below, a clip from Lin and Ted-Ed exploring invisibility:

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