Being on sabbatical this term, I’ve been staying away from our science teaching journal club. I went yesterday, though, taking a break from working on papers, pondering signal processing mysteries, and failing at subcloning, since the topic was teaching science via comics. I’m fond of both science and comics, and so couldn’t stay away!
I won’t summarize the discussion, which spanned things like comic strips (e.g. , ), as well as booklets and books. Books, I think, are particularly interesting, since graphic nonfiction could, in principle, convey concepts in ways that are engaging and fun and that help students construct mental visualizations of complex processes, by virtue of being inherently visual. There are, however, remarkably few good books of this sort. One of my colleagues is using this graphic adaptation of Darwin’s Origin of the Species in a course for non-science majors. She, and students, like it, and it’s scientifically very accurate. I read part of it about a year ago, and am a bit embarrassed to point out that I couldn’t get over how ugly many of the drawings are.
It’s hard to make a graphic book that succeeds on a variety of levels. Logicomix, on Bertrand Russell, is pleasant to look at and fascinating as a biography, but it doesn’t do a great job of explaining math and logic. Clan Apis is probably my favorite book in this genre of graphic science. It’s about, as regular readers of this blog will have guessed already, bees.
Biographies are perhaps more tractable as science-themed stories. I remember (and still have) this one from when I was a kid, on Jagadish Chandra Bose.
Looking at it again, I realize it has valuable lessons on research funding sources that I hadn’t appreciated years ago: