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Dr. Clifford Johnson is Now One of My Heroes. Helping Students Make Connections!


Most of us love Thor (the Marvel Movie). Who wouldn't? Thor is a hero in an imaginative Universe who willed a weapon of immerse mass and energy. In my universe, I have another hero, Dr. Clifford Johnson. The difference between Dr. Johnson and Thor is that Dr. Johnson is a natural person with extraordinary power, making learning STEM relevant to all Marvel movie watchers who heat physics, earth science, and astronomy.


In the video I posted above, Dr. Clifford Johnson (who is a science advisor for Marvel and a physics professor at the University of Southern California) explains the physics behind Thor's new weapon (an ax called "Storm Breaker"). In the Marvel movie, he used two phenomena (the black hole and our sun) in physics, earth science, and astronomy to make sense of another wonder (Thor's Hammer and the Storm Breaker). (Please watch the video if you haven't yet). I love the connection between the phenomena in the marvel movie and physics (one of the disciplines in STEM education). A physic teacher in high school (and all educator) could use this phenomenon to introduce the theory or concept that connects, for example, force and motion (Newton's Law of Motion), energy, or use the physics concept (Newtonian or Quantum Physics) to explain a phenomenon in nature using visual arts or technology.

Using visual arts and technology to visualize a phenomenon and the use of the phenomenon to make a connection to topics or discipline is one of the best pedagogical practices in education. Using Dr. Johnson's strategy, how he used physics to help us make sense of the phenomenon of the Marvel movie is an interdisciplinary approach to the real-life issue (in this case, the point is about what makes Thor's weapon so unique). Teachers, educators, and parents could also use this strategy in teaching and to encourage students about the importance of using an interdisciplinary approach to solving problems.


Who would have ever imagined many years ago that visual art or technology would be so essential in science education? Welcome to the 21st-century workforce. An interdisciplinary approach to solving problems is where the fun and money are. Moreover, an interdisciplinary approach to solving issues also projects relevance and appreciation of our students and children with varied skills. Therefore, no teacher, educator, or parent should be teaching in a silo anymore. Those days of teaching in a silo are long gone!


Additionally, making the connection between classroom instruction to career is consequential. This is why Dr. Johnson (an expert in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and possibly visual arts and technology) is relevant and will always have a job! His background in physic and astronomy and his application to real-life phenomena ensures a measure of reality to fantasy.


Therefore, helping students make the connection between what is real and what they are learning in their real-life experience help students and children make sense of difficult concept and also help them envision possibilities (like a career in STEM or STEAM). Students and children should be reminded that an interdisciplinary approach to viewing and solving a problem is the 21st-century approach to STEM and the STEAM economy. The caveat is that the median salary for most STEM occupations is around $90,000, aside from the fun and challenges it brings. At least they will not be bored with the challenge. I guess that is one of the things that makes it fun!


Authored by Dr. Ayo Olufade, Ph.D.

Think STEM Careers! You Have the Opportunity to Create the Future and The Privilege Deciding What’s in It! ~ Dr. Ayo Olufade, PhD

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