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Teacher-Created Science Comics by Laura Balliett

The Cool School Rap

My name is Laura Balliett, and I am the creator of The Cool School Rap, STEM curriculum in comic form. I teach middle school math and science at a Lakewood charter school for at-risk youth. These are kids that haven’t been able to make it in public school. They enter my classroom with a wide variety of learning needs, many of these needs leaving them to enter the classroom with below grade level learning skills. One of the most prominent challenges I have faced with my students is an aversion to reading. Many of my students actively avoid any type of text — textbooks, paragraphs and even story problems, and to them, reading is intimidating, not pleasurable. In response to this avoidance of reading, I created The Cool School Rap.

The Cool School Rap is an educational comic series that breaks down complicated STEM curriculum into a highly visual and easy to read format. Each comic delivers information through illustrations, diagrams, examples and word bubbles. At this point in the project, I am creating full lesson plans for grades 3 through 8.   Each lesson plan delivers content and models at least one project-based learning activity. All instructions for these activities are written in comic form making it easy for those resistant readers figure out the necessary steps. While keeping with Common Core standards, The Cool School Rap provides interactive visual lesson plans that ensure students will comprehend and retain the information necessary to succeed, grow, and build imperative critical thinking skills. Educators can visit The Cool School Rap website or Teachers Pay Teachers to choose from over fifty different topics available for download.

The Cool School Rap offers a different way of teaching complex STEM lessons to students and has made an impact. I have witnessed quite a change in my classroom. Students who frequently resist reading the normal curriculum reach for the comics with enthusiasm, and many are so eager to read my comics that they crowd around every time I step away from the copy machine with a new comic. There seems to be a more relaxed vibe to my class, and I often hear students referencing the images and content they read in a comic while completing classroom activities. Instead of hearing, “Oh man, a textbook.” I hear, “Oh cool! A comic!”

This past January marked the beginning of my third year pursuing this dream. I am confident this is an effective learning tool and has the ability to reach a vast number of learners. This product is not just for at-risk youth, but has the versatility to reach multiple types of learners, including English Language Learners and Special Needs Learners. I have always known I am meant to be an educator, but I believe I am meant to educate a much wider population. Educating through my art is what I am meant to do.

You may be wondering, “Why is it called The Cool School Rap?” Well, not only am I meant to educate through my drawing, but also through lyrics. Ultimately, I would like each lesson to include an educational rap or song. For example, I wrote a rap about the order of operations, and it goes like this….