Document Type

Activities and Labs


Science--Study and teaching (Elementary); Caricatures and cartoons; Wit and humor in education;


Elementary school science is an often-neglected subject in the current literacy-focused political atmosphere. However, reading informational trade books about science in literacy class can help children increase their science knowledge. Incorporating humor through content-related cartoons is an effective way to engage students in deeper understanding of content and creative play with language. A master’s degree student enrolled in a graduate course in instructional design acted as a consultant to a faculty member teaching a course in literacy methods for preservice elementary teachers and engaged undergraduates in creating humorous cartoons to teach science content. The preservice teachers read science trade books designed for an elementary school audience and listed science content ideas and terms about a given topic (earthquakes, volcanoes, fossils, crystals, glacier, or caves). They noted confusing topic-related terms that were homophones, words with multiple meanings, or words that sounded very similar to other common words, thus identifying possible wordings for puns. Next, they analyzed given cartoons for science content and humor, making suggestions for their improvement. They completed partially-finished cartoons to convey science information in a funny way. Finally, they created original cartoons of their own using their choice of scenario. A survey was administered to the preservice elementary teachers partway through the cartoon creation process to determine ways to help them. Students reported that they learned much science information from the trade books, and discovered how difficult it was to produce humor. They noted the motivating aspects of using humor in science and working within a group of peers. They found it difficult to generate creative ideas for cartoons and suggested that they be given more example cartoons and more opportunities for group brainstorming. Color cartoon scenarios made with clip art, along with idea-prompting questions, were provided and these increased productivity of humorous cartoons related to science content. Forty-eight color cartoons with accompanying science explanations created by the authors and preservice teachers are included as an appendix. These address the science topics of earthquakes, volcanoes, fossils, crystals, glaciers, or caves. We recommend that cartoons be used as part of science teaching because of their motivating and creative aspects. [14 references, 8 tables, 1 appendix of 48 color cartoons]


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

Original Date




File Format




To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.