Menu

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Stepping Into the Science Portal - A Review of "JJ's Science Adventure: Magnets"


I must admit that when I received local writer and educator Aurelia Tan's book in the mail, it was with a mixture of anticipation and anxiety.

I was excited to see what the attractively-illustrated comic had to offer; after all, it has already won the Readers' Favorite Illustration Award 2014, which recognises books with quality illustrations. At the same time, my last foray into the topic of "Magnets" was when I was in Primary 3 (and I think it was about the same time that I decided I did not have a future in Physics - not only did I not understand the concepts taught, I wondered why on earth I had to study these things). 

Well, not only did I finally garner the courage to open the book, but I finished it in one happy half hour over coffee at a cafe, and found myself looking forward to the next installation in the series! If only everything we need to know could be learned this way...

I suppose it is for students just like the kind that I was that Aurelia has ventured to write this series of Science comic books. I loved comics when I was young, and much preferred being buried in an Asterix or Tintin comic than my Science textbooks, of course! A Science teacher herself, Aurelia explains in the book's Preface that her students often felt the textbooks they had in school were 'boring' and failed to engage the students the way that hands-on experiments did. Her book series  is thus aimed at catering to students' different learning styles and motivating them in their areas of interest.
Why can't we have a gold magnet?
As a homeschooling mother, I feel a great resonance with the author in terms of her educational philosophy. Our pedagogies and thoughts on education are constantly being shaped and refined even as we begin our journey homeschooling our 2 young boys, aged 4 and 2. Increasingly, we realise the importance of delight-directed learning. Children learn best when it is something that interests them. 

We have also learned, like Aurelia, from the latest scientific research, that most of what we remember has deep neural connections with our emotions. In other words, the things we best remember are the things we feel and and able to emotionally engage with. The information we often find in textbooks is disconnected from real life, and the parts that have been selected for the children to study do not link up in a coherent whole. Science is best experienced first-hand, not from a textbook - if the greatest inventors had sat around all day reading, how would they have ever discovered anything new?
Magnets in the medical world.
It is on this premise that Aurelia has conceptualised the series "Aurelia's Comics for Education", or ACE for short. Illustrator Nicholas Liem has done a great job with the manga-like drawings which are sure to be a draw for most pre-teens, and Aurelia gives her characters a little bit of spunk and personality, which I am sure she will be building on in the next few books. 

The plot is plausible and engaging, built on the premise of a grandfather inventor who creates a "World Maker", a machine that is able to create different worlds in different dimensions, to help his two brainy grandchildren learn Science.

The scientific concepts, such as the physical properties of magnets, are weaved so skilfully into the story line that I had to go back and purposefully search them out as I could not believe I had learned them in the course of reading the book. The illustrations help where certain concepts might be more difficult to grasp. 

I can certainly see our two boys devouring the story lines, with topics sure to excite, like how the "MagLev" trains in Japan work, and whether we will soon be able to travel in a vacuum tube train from New York to London in an hour!

Magnets for the future!
Parents will be happy to know that the Learning Objectives are highlighted and in bold, and are aligned to the latest MOE syllabus. For someone not strong in the area of Physics, like me, it is such a relief to know that my child will be able to acquire some of these concepts by simply reading a comic book. You can be sure that you will find me reading the series first, to brush up on my understanding of the topics before teaching it to my kids in homeschool!

Looking forward to the next book in the series, "Heat and Light". You can find more information on how to obtain a copy of Magnets here.

6 comments:

  1. Magnets are rare metals on earth that have a north and south pole and having the ability to attract and repel magnetic materials naturally. Magnets can be used to perform a variety of actions including levitation and creating amazing patterns with magnetic materials such as iron fillings.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the way magnets have an invisible force that can be manipulated and played with. I have sat on the mag-levitation train in Japan. It was so fast and smooth, due to no friction. Technology with electromagnetism is amazing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mmm currently, Japan is still testing out on the Maglev technology. I believe what you have sat on is a bullet train. If I am not wrong, you can find Maglev train in Germany and China.
      A.

      Delete
  3. I love how magnets are used from simple things like closing of doors, to more complex things like in roller coasters and Maglev trains!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am fascinated by the use of magnets in MRI, which then allows docs to see the insides of our body and is so fundamental for diagnosing critical illnesses and diseases.

    robert_sim@yahoo.com
    Robert Sim

    ReplyDelete
  5. Magnets are found in our every day lives from something as simple as a fridge magnet to incredible invention like the MRI scan and Maglev train. And this concept is not simple to be explain to a pre schooler..this book seems to make it look so simple and fun!
    Jaime Chan
    chueimei@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete