Science explodes into life for children with new comics

Issue date: 03 February 2009

Selenia and The Smelly Lunchtime Primary school children will soon have the chance to learn about scientific enquiry and changing materials, from an exciting new digital comic called, Selenia, created by Emma Weitkamp of the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England. The comic can be downloaded from:

The comic, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is designed to appeal to 8 – 11 year olds and build their understanding of scientific processes. The comic's website also includes support materials for teachers including ideas for classroom investigations. The comics and the resources are all free.

Mrs Denise Weston of Broad Hinton Primary School in Wiltshire has been involved with the project from the beginning: “My class has really enjoyed helping to develop the comics, from helping develop the characters and talking about adventures they'd like read about through to testing investigations. The comics and fun investigations have really engaged some children who don't normally enjoy science.”

In the stories Selenia, the schoolgirl heroine, travels from her alien planet to Earth where she makes two friends. Through her adventures, children develop an understanding of the properties of materials – such as the difference between gases, solids and liquids. The teaching resources which accompany the comics are designed to build children's understanding of scientific processes.

Dr Emma Weitkamp, says, “The stories are full of action, magic and fun and are designed to give children the opportunity to explore science in unconventional ways. The main character, Selenia has magical powers and can control the scientific properties of materials. This encourages the reader to think about the implications, for example, of changing a football field into an ice rink where all the players slide and fall down.”

“Teachers we have consulted have been enthusiastic about the comic, which is in digital format and can be used on a whiteboard in the classroom. For teachers, one of the successes of the comic has been the ability to stimulate an interest in reading as well as science in students who did not normally enjoy these topics”.

Over 50 teachers and 150 students were consulted during development of the comic. As a result, children strongly relate to the characters in the story. Dr Helen Featherstone (UWE) who developed the supplementary materials for the comic, says, “The children love the stories, especially the bright illustrations, the styling and the words. They like the fact that Selenia is independent, a bit naughty, and that she can make her own decisions.”

Developed in partnership with the Royal Society of Chemistry, who funded the pilot, the comic is aimed at Key Stage Two (KS2) primary school children, years 3 to 6 and for ages approximately 7 to 11 years old. In addition to the stories, the comic provides context and tools for teachers, with games, quizzes and ideas for experiments linked to Selenia's adventures.


Notes to Editors:

1.The science comic, Selenia, can be downloaded from:

Five episodes of the comic are currently available and work will soon be completed on the final five.

2.Jpeg images of three frames of the comics are available from the Press Office.

3. The other members of the development team are: Dave Smith (the illustrator); Professor Norman Ratcliffe (Professor of Chemistry at UWE); Ben De Lacy Costello (Senior Researcher in Analytical, Material and Sensor Sciences at UWE) and Colin Osborne, Royal Society of Chemistry.

4. The Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England is recognised for its expertise in engaging a wide range of audiences with science, from teachers and students through to policy makers. For further details see:

5. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The EPSRC invests around £740 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.

6. The RSC is the UK Professional Body for chemical scientists and an international Learned Society for advancing the chemical sciences. Supported by a network of over 46,000 members worldwide and an internationally acclaimed publishing business, our activities span education and training, conferences and science policy, and the promotion of the chemical sciences to the public.

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