Teachers are always striving to make a connection with their students and looking to teach their curriculum in a way that engages the students, which is often easier said than done. While many educators and school districts are turning to technological tools to engage kids, one Lakewood City Schools teacher has been creating curriculum content with a decidedly old-fashioned technique.
Harding Middle School STEM teacher Laura Balliett has spent her past few summers creating curriculum in comic form. She started a comic series, “The Cool School Rap,” while she was a teacher at Lakewood City Academy.
“It was getting close to state testing time, and I was trying to review content in a quick and efficient manner. So, I drew my first standards based comics- Fossil Fuels and Asexual Reproduction,” Baillett said. “It was an effort to ‘trick’ my students into reading content. The students responded so well, I never stopped.”
The comic series breaks down complicated science and math topics into a highly visual and easy-to-read format. Baillett tackles such topics as plate tectonics, speed of light and photosynthesis. Her strips primarily target middle school students.
Since Baillett created “The Cool School Rap,” its reach has grown at a rapid rate. Baillett has seen increasing sales on the Teachers Pay Teachers online lesson plan market site and sales indicate her strip has accomplished global reach as well. The strips cost about $2 and strips bundled with lesson plans $3.
Word of “The Cool School Rap” lessons has traveled beyond Ohio. This past spring, Baillett’s comics appeared in the American Bee Keepers Journal and a Chesapeake Bay conservation journal. Baillett was also invited this summer to speak about her unique approach to curriculum at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Maryland. In addition, she has been asked to create a comic on sharks for Discovery Channel’s popular Shark Week.
What started out as a summer hobby has turned into a year-round passion for Baillett. And she doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.
“Education is a huge passion of mine, and my comics are a huge driving force,” she said.
Click here for an article about Baillett on the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center blog.