"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
--Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
Hi, I'm Jim McClain, veteran middle school teacher with 32 years of experience in the classroom, as well as the award-winning creator of the math-themed superhero graphic novel, Solution Squad.
I was also the 2018 Pop Culture Educator of the Year for middle grades. Here's my latest project: Heroes of STEAM!
Creating superheroes and supervillains from math concepts is what I'm known for, but what about all the other subjects students need to learn about? It turns out that there is no subject that can't support a superhero idea based on it. Iron Man is clearly a product of engineering, Captain America from science, Thor from mythology and language arts and history. Even the Black Panther sprang from social studies, following the establishment of the Black Panther Party in 1966.
Students don't usually like to do research, especially for writing papers. It can be a dry and unrewarding process. But what if they were given an incentive that wasn't learning for learning's sake? That's what Heroes of STEAM is all about. Students choose any topic to research; anything at all, no matter the subject area. And then they use their notes and rough drafts to create their very own superheroes, which they design, write about, and roll up into playable game characters. Then, in tournament fashion, their superhero characters square off in mock combat with one another, using a game system that's even easier than the card games they play. It's easier than Yu-Gi-Oh or Pokemon, and especially Magic: The Gathering!
Here's what you get as a reward for backing my project:
A PDF of the entire Heroes of STEAM project with the following files saved individually:
- Three-page PDF "How to Read a Comic" by Tracy Edmunds
- Full-color projectable/sharable digital comic in landscape (widescreen) format with art by Marvel artist Craig Rousseau, introducing the Heroes of STEAM
- Complete lesson plans on dozens of ways to use the project, with suggestions for every subject area, as well as academic standards to justify the use of the project
- Printable 12-page black and white comic book and sample origins booklet
- Printable 8-page character creation booklet
- Printable 8-page game character creation booklet including complete game rules
- Video demonstration of how to play the game (with actual kids playing the game)
- Cut-out items, including rulers, dice rolling trays, and paper standees of all the Heroes of STEAM plus blank template paper standees for kid-created characters
- Printable Heroes of STEAM multiplication table
- Site license for one entire school building, or one extended family for home schoolers
Digital projectable comic
Heroes of STEAM begins with a six-page full-color digital comic book in PDF format that if you're in a classroom setting, you can either project on a SMARTboard or push to student devices using Canvas or Google Classroom. If you're a home schooler, it can be viewed on any personal device, even a smartphone. It's presented in landscape format for easier reading on the board. The story sets the stage for the project. We meet the Heroes of STEAM at a low point, when they're exhausted from being taxed too hard in their daily superhero duties. What do they need? New recruits, and that's where your kids come in. The comic book is written and lettered by me, with story and character art by Craig Rousseau, who has worked for Marvel on The Avengers and Captain America, as well as for DC Comics on Batman and Harley Quinn.
Printable comic for your students with sample origin stories
The digital comic is also available in printable form (in black and white or color) so that every student in your class can have their own copy of the story! Samples of character origin stories are included so that students not familiar with the comic book or superhero genre are not excluded.
As we are launching just days before the 50th anniversary of the first manned moon landing, I made a character based on an interesting story that I read about how Carl Sagan proposed that there may have been extraterrestrial viruses contained within the regolith of the moon and within the lunar dust that astronauts could encounter or even breathe in. By the way, did you know that the majority of the lunar samples brought back to Earth have not yet been studied? True story.
Printable superhero creation booklet
There's an eight-page printable pamphlet to hand out to students to guide them in the creation of their own superhero. The idea is that if they still have their notes and rough drafts of the research they've done, they can use them to explore intriguing details that they may have left out of their papers, like how I included the Sagan theory in Silica's origin. This pamphlet will help with design, naming, writing backgrounds, and even drawing! Having kids create their own superheroes and then write about them (or even make their own comics) is a great activity, and they can do more than one. You can make as many pamphlets as you have paper and ink to make!
This is where it gets fun for me as a creator. The lesson plans include templates for designing different kinds of characters and also making comics. It also has writing prompts (no, FUN writing prompts; not the test prep kind) to give your kids ideas of what kinds of stories they could create! And once they establish who their superhero really is and what they're like, they should then be ready to create a nemesis for their hero; an archenemy whose motivation is completely the opposite of theirs. Seems like a good time to teach the terms, protagonist and antagonist, doesn't it? Students can also create a foil for their character.
As a veteran teacher, though, I have lots of ideas on how to use Heroes of STEAM beyond the obvious. Are you wary of posting student scores because of privacy violation? Use the superhero code-names they created for their characters. In fact, one fun alternative plan I have included is a guideline for having kids create superheroes based on themselves. Those origin stories are very revealing, believe me.
Then there's the game itself. Heroes of STEAM comes with everything you need to roll up characters and play the game except 12-sided dice. There are printable eight-page booklets to hand out to every student with instructions on how to roll up characters and a complete set of rules to play the game. I've thought of everything, including paper standees
and blank templates that kids can use to create their own paper figures. I'm even including a printable ruler, multiplication table, and dice tray. What if you don't have dice? I have a way to use a simple deck of cards in their place. All you need is a long stapler, some printer paper and a printer.
Everything in the digital package is printable at 8.5" by 11" on normal copy paper or cardstock (better for standees) on your regular inkjet or laser printer and all the files come in both color and black and white versions, so you can dress it up as much or as little as you like. The only thing you need is a set of 12-sided dice to roll, and even those can be replaced by a common deck of cards to generate numbers between 1 and 12, inclusive. Just throw out the kings!
When students have had a battle with one of their rival Heroes, I think it should be obvious that they would write about the battle, don't you?
The game itself is very basic and quick to play. The lesson plans include ideas on how to get kids to work cooperatively on modifying and expanding the game to make it as challenging or complex as they want. Every RPG (role playing game) has flaws that players modify. This one is designed for this purpose!
There is no limit to the applications of this project. Do you group your kids into squads or teams? Wouldn't it be cool if they made their own superhero team based on their new characters? Might not be a bad way to start the year!
And just as a final thought, what could you be doing while the students are involved in this highly motivational project? I'd be using the time to read their research papers, and make this activity a participation grade. But I'm sneaky like that.
Thanks for reading!
Add-ons! Here's a bunch of stuff you don't need but people seem to like add-ons, so here you go! Just add the amount listed for each item that you want to your pledge and when I send out the survey at the end of the campaign, make sure to note what you want added on.
These prices include shipping, and may be delayed a little past August to have them made to order. These are only available for US pledgers!
Risks and challenges
This is easy. The project is virtually done. When Craig is done with the artwork for the comic this month, all I have to do is upload the files to Dropbox and send out a link. You can download the project at your leisure. Any of the add-ons will be manufactured on-demand and shipped directly to you. I wasn't even going to make any, but people seem to like that stuff!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (32 days)