February 22, 2021

Superheroes of Science bringing new STEM innovations to teachers, schools

Superheroes of Science is Purdue’s College of Science program that highlights STEM content, provides professional development opportunities for teachers, and delivers learning experiences for students.

The focal point of the Superheroes of Science program is a podcast of the same name. The podcast, which releases content weekly, is hosted by K-12 outreach coordinators Sarah Nern of the Department of Chemistry and Steven Smith of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.

Each episode highlights a professional who conducts research in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). Additionally, these professionals share highlights about their career, research and experience. Garnering over 10,000 views in the last 12 months, the “Superheroes of Science” podcast has provided Purdue faculty, alumni and other STEM professionals with a platform to showcase their research while allowing listeners to learn about new and cutting-edge science research.

Nern takes pride in bringing new STEM content to a platform that is so accessible, saying, “Superheroes of Science demystifies these STEM careers and provides all students with an accessible way to interact with these professionals. Students can hear and see what research faculty and STEM professionals look and sound like. This helps students identify with them and realize that they could one day become one of these professionals.” This is a program for everyone and anyone with a potential interest in all things science, STEM and innovation.

Two years ago, the Superheroes of Science program consisted of only an audio podcast. Due to popular demand, the project expanded to YouTube and now recipients can see the scientists that they are learning from. The program also includes additional resources that guide the learning promoted through the videos and follows a weekly schedule:

  • Mondays – New STEM content interviews are released via podcast and YouTube. These 20- to 30-minute episodes let listeners learn about new research and innovations.
  • Fridays – The "Teaching Science” podcast — available on all podcast platforms — provides content geared specifically toward science teachers.

Laura Swessel, STEM teacher at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville, Indiana, explains how the resources provided by the Superheroes of Science program has aided in the classroom experience during the pandemic. Her curriculum, typically involving a semester STEM assignment where students complete activities outside the classroom, couldn’t occur due to the cancellation of class field trips and engagement opportunities.

Swessel says, “Because of the pandemic and the switch to online classes, I decided to put together a list of virtual STEM engagement options, including the Superheroes of Science. I have been receiving the accompanying worksheets as the students go through the episodes and have heard from several of my students that they are really enjoying the episodes.”

The “Superheroes of Science” podcast can be found on Apple, Spotify and Google Podcast or on the YouTube channel. Additional learning material can be found on the Superheroes of Science website. Readers can follow the Superheroes of Science social media accounts, @PurdueSOS, to keep up to date on content.

Writer: Bella Vina, ivina@purdue.edu

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