Hidden Wasps

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This month saw the release of a new comic from Marvel:  The Unstoppable Wasp, which stars a new Wasp heroine who is the teenage daughter of Hank Pym (original Ant-Man) and his late first wife.

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The original Wasp, Janet van Dyne, is known as Hank Pym’s second wife and a founding Avenger.  In fact, she’s the one who named “The Avengers,” as seen at the end of issue #1 way back in 1963:

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Janet is perhaps most famous for her colorful variety of costumes.  In fact, someone actually went to the trouble of cataloging all of Wasp’s outfits from the past 50+ years.  Here’s just a few:

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Contrast the elder Wasp’s fashion sense above with younger Wasp’s mission, outlined in the comic panels below:

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Reviewers are mostly positive toward Marvel’s new take on the Wasp and its pro-STEM  message, especially for girls.  Unstoppable Wasp #1 has been called “relentlessly positive” with “infectious enthusiasm.”  Take a look and consider for yourself:unstoppable_wasp_1_3

I must admit, a mash-up of science, pop culture, and cheesy humor occurs in my classroom on a daily basis.  So of course I’m totally in favor of a comic like this.

In a universe known for its brilliant scientists–Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, Hank Pym, Henry McCoy, etc.–Marvel is wise to put more emphasis on female contributions.

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And if you want more reasons for improving the gender balance in STEM-related work (science/technology/engineering/math) in the REAL world, take a look at some statistics here.

I’m not arguing that all students (male or female) should pursue STEM careers or college degrees.  But we do need students (and society) thoroughly educated in science and math, as well as ALL other disciplines.  Some folks add “Arts” to advocate for “STEAM” education.  I say throw in the Humanities, History, and Physical Education can call it “SHHTEAMPE” (Trademark 2017).

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Maybe you haven’t heard of The Unstoppable Wasp, but you might know about the movie Hidden Figures.  This recent film (based on the book) shares the story of REAL women and their challenges and contributions.

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Sadly, I haven’t seen this film yet. But it’s already one of my wife’s all-time favorite movies, so it’s only a matter of time.  Until then, Smithsonian Magazine‘s website provides an interesting overview, “The True Story of ‘Hidden Figures,’ the Forgotten Women Who Helped Win the Space Race.”

This feature also shares author Margot Lee Shetterly’s background (and ongoing) work in uncovering details about the people involved.  I appreciate the article’s final paragraph and quote from Shetterly, because it evokes super-heroics even as it emphasizes down-to-earth human effort:

“[Shetterly] hopes her work pays tribute to these women by bringing details of their life’s work to light. ‘Not just mythology but the actual facts,’ she says. ‘Because the facts are truly spectacular.'”

The impact of the people in Hidden Figures continues today, with reports about increased interest in STEM by girls and minorities.  I don’t know if The Unstoppable Wasp will have the same effect, but teachers may want to try both artistic resources in their classrooms.

Here are some other suggestions from “experts” talking with CNN about increasing girls’ interest in STEM.  I’d say that many of these ideas are applicable to all children and all subject disciplines.

What about you?  You don’t have to teach in a STEM-related field.  What “SHHTEAMPE” strategies do you use to make learning meaningful and memorable?

 

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Superhero Therapy

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The title of this blog entry may have you thinking that superheroes need therapy.  And, in fact, most probably do.

Who else dresses in a mask, tights, armor, and/or a cape and dives into danger at the drop of a hammer*?

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*Or in Thor’s case, the drop of Mjolnir—which can magically zip back into his hand à la Harry Potter’s Accio summoning charm. (Handy!)

Therapy for superheroes is something in definite need of attention.  And a clinical psychologist actually has done some work on this, which you can read about here.

Check it out and then return here.

 

Back yet?  Good.

The news story that inspired THIS entry is actually about how therapists have been using superheroes (and other geeky things) to help kids and adults.  You can read the original story at The Daily Beast’s website.

 

Done?  Okay, let’s talk about teaching.

But first let’s talk about Doc Samson, who’s both a superhero AND a therapistHow cool is that?

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Crackin’ skulls . . . Freudian style.

The good doctor is a “gamma-irradiated friend, rival, and psychiatrist of Bruce Banner.”  Dr. Bruce Banner is, of course, better known as the Incredible Hulk.

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Doc Samson first appeared in The Incredible Hulk #141 back in 1971, and does most of his adventuring alongside (or against) Marvel’s Green Goliath.

The most memorable Doc Samson stories, however, feature him sitting in his psychiatrist chair.  Such therapy sessions include two of the best issues of X-Factor.

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Take a gander here and here to glimpse into the inner lives of B-level mutants.

 

NOW let’s talk about teaching.

Where does superhero-themed therapy fit into the classroom?

Consider why kids (and adults) respond so well to superheroes for therapeutic treatment.  These icons of hope and heroism provide an outlet through which individuals can express their own doubts, decisions, and conflict in life.

And it’s not just comic book characters, either. The Daily Beast feature puts it this way:

“We’re all aware of the basic transformative properties of popular culture——namely, its ability to cheer you up, to make you laugh, and to make you cry.”

If therapists can use such elements to connect with their patients, imagine the power of linking popular culture with learning.

 

Teachers don’t have to cater to every student’s craze or hobby.  And we shouldn’t dilute or distort the content in a lame attempt to appear “cool.”

But we can pay attention to our students’ lives and watch for ways to relate our subject to their interests.  This is especially helpful with challenging and abstract topics.

(Do your students struggle with primary/secondary light colors and pigments?  Try using examples from the Green Lantern and the rest of the Emotional Spectrum heroes.)

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Colorful and Educational!

These examples don’t have to be from superheroes, geek culture, or popular media.  Students are diverse, as are their interests–sports, music, literature, the visual arts, traditions, and more.

 

There are times when teachers feel like we must be our students’ therapists.  And there are times when we need some therapy of our own.

But at all times, we can make learning memorable and meaningful.  One way to do that is by using illustrations and stories from pop culture.  Superheroes are prime candidates for this job.

(As soon as they get out of therapy.)