Teaching with Anime
As you know, Anime Science 101 was originally inspired by some of the students I taught almost ten years ago. Students began asking how their favorite anime characters followed or defied the laws of science. Now being the erstwhile science teacher that I am, I of course answered their questions, and wondered if others had similar questions. After a couple of years and convention panels on the subject, the current website was born. Aside from the occasional question from a student, I didn’t really think about using anime in the classroom.
This changed when I traveled halfway around the world to Mongolia to teach at the American School of Ulaanbaatar. High school students are high school students and some things never change regardless of where you are, so it was no surprise that with 10 minutes to go in an 85-minute period the students would be talking instead of working on their homework. The surprise was their discussion of anime, including Fairy Tail, Naruto, and Tokyo Ghoul. At this point I couldn’t help myself and said that while Fairy Tail is a pretty good show, they really should be working on their homework. Imagine their shock at A- being caught and B- having a teacher who knows and likes anime. Now one particular student (we’ll call him Codi- not his real name) wanted to discuss anime with me, and I did indulge him, but only after he did his homework. After that I don’t think he missed one assignment for the rest of the year, at least with me anyway.
My next instance of using anime in the classroom happened while I was teaching a lesson on viruses. Specifically, I was explaining how viruses destroy cells due to replicating until the cell can no longer hold all of the copies, and it explodes from the pressure. As my students were copying down the notes, I overheard one of the students ask his friend this:
“Hey, do you think it is like that one scene from Naruto?”
I couldn’t help but chime in at this point:
“Yes, it is exactly like that scene from the forest of death where Naruto blows up the snake from the inside out with his shadow clones.”
I could see the proverbial light bulb go on as the slightly confused pair now had a much better idea of what was going on, now that they had a visual to go with the lesson. The real question now is can anime be used in a planned way that fits into a lesson that actually enhances the student’s ability to learn?
Yes, it can
The phrase “Teach the students where they are at,” is often used by educators to refer to the students’ academic level and to present material appropriate to the student’s ability and not necessarily the grade he or she is in. This is all well and good, but I like to think it also refers to the student’s interests. While it is not anime, I think the following example works. I had a student we’ll call Manny, whose only interests were fish, and video games. After a rather lengthy explanation about carrying capacity (the number of organisms an ecosystem can support) and limiting factors (the resource that is in the least abundance in the ecosystem and sets the carrying capacity), he said that he didn’t get it. At this point I asked him how many inches of fish you could keep in a 10-gallon tank. He replied ten, which is the correct answer, and I followed up by asking what would happen if I put in more fish. He said that some of the fish would die because it’s too much for that size tank. I asked him why, because I could just add more fish. He rather vehemently stated that it’s not the food, but the water and the filter that is the problem. My final question was “So the carrying capacity of the tank is 10 inches of fish, and the limiting factor is amount of water?” He replied “yes,” as I could see his eyes light up in understanding.
Now I know this isn’t anime, but I have an anime example. Attack on Titan is one of the popular shows right now, and it has a third season set to be released next year in 2018. At the beginning of Attack on Titan all of humanity is said to be living inside of a giant walled city, and you could use this as a jumping off point for a lesson on carrying capacity, limiting factors, and biocapacity. The central point of the lesson or assignment would be can humanity survive inside the city as described in Attack on Titan? In fact, Mat Pat did a video on this topic on his Film Theorist YouTube channel.
More than just ideas
Teaching with Anime will be more than just giving you ideas. As time goes on I will be making some anime themed lessons and activities that I think could be used in the classroom. I also know some of you asked at my Teaching with Anime Panel at Otakon 2017 to share the slides, and I have shared them on slide share.
Now I will be focusing more on science, specifically biology, but I am open to suggestions. Also, if you need any help coming up with your own lessons, send me a message and I’ll try and do what I can.