Everyone’s talking about STEM these days – or STEAM, depending on which library or classroom you’re hanging out in. What’s STEM? It’s the new thing for education – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (with an “A” for Art, if you’re talking STEAM). It’s going beyond the three “Rs” to get kids ready for this crazy future we’re heading toward. It’s LEGO Robotics, it’s NASA mentors for kids, it’s teaching kids to code in languages like HTML, Python, and Ruby on Rails.
Beyond that, it’s starting with what’s around you. I had a duct tape crafting workshop at my library that the kids went berserk for. We made wallets, change pouches, even little mustaches on popsicle sticks. If you don’t have funky, leopard-spotted duct tape, you can still make stuff – show me one home that doesn’t have a roll of duct tape laying around, right? With that base, you can create.
And that is the idea that HowToons works with. HowToons is more than a comic, it’s a movement. It’s taking comics one step further and bringing kids into the adventure, by creating a story that shows kids how to create – using things around them – to save their own world.
We’ve got siblings Celine and Tucker, whose parents are scientists. When a local megacorporation makes a crazy move that verges on environmental disaster, Celine and Tucker’s parents grab them and bring them to their shelter, where they lock down, hopefully until the initial fallout is over. Celine and Tucker wake up to discover their parents missing and their entire world changed. They’re going to need to rely on their wits, and their creativity, to stay alive, find their parents, and save the world.
For parents and librarians, this is an entire worth of summer programming in one book. For teachers, this is your science fair and your lesson plan, all in one place. Create a PVC pipe marshmallow shooter! Work up a quick improv flashlight! Make a paper plate wheel! All of the projects in here require, at most, a quick trip to Home Depot (unless you have PVC pipe laying around, then, by all means, carry on). The materials are easy to get hold of, and the projects are the stuff of kids’ dreams.
Each project includes a lesson on why things work the way they do. The marshmallow gun’s success, for instance, relies on the energy contained in your own respiratory system’s muscles. How your muscles work with different lengths and widths of pipe will bring varying degrees of success.
There are lessons on how to work with tools, plus an essay by MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow Dr. Saul Griffith (also a contributor to MAKE magazine) in each issue, discussing energy literacy. Icon glossaries teach kids about different types of energy. And each issue reminds kids that parents MUST be both part of the energy dialogue AND on hand to help with the inventions, especially the ones that require heavy-duty cutting and woodwork, like the go-kart.
I can’t say enough great things about HowToons, and what they’re doing to elevate the dialogue between kids and adults when it comes to taking the next step into our future. Check out the site at HowToons.com, pick up a copy or three of this book to support the initiative, and give them out to the kids in your own life. Or make some stuff yourself. You deserve it.
HowToons [Re]Ignition hits stores tomorrow. Get your copy!
HOWTOONS [RE]IGNITION, VOL. 1
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Tom Fowler
Diamond Comic order code DEC140668
On-Sale: comic book stores February 25, bookstores March 10