What Makes Super Heroes Super?

In schools across Canada Halloween is a day that elementary teachers have given to their students.  It’s a day of costumes, junk food, fun times and, more often that not, a movie.  This year I brought in a handful of my favourite movies for my students to choose from. When we put it to a vote The Avengers was a clear winner.  We dimmed the lights; we passed around enough candy to give an elephant diabetes, and we started the show.  

One small problem.

I hadn’t made sure that there was enough time to watch the whole movie… As class time dwindled, I realized that I was going to have to make a promise to finish the movie tomorrow.

This was one of the greatest things that could have happened.  

The next day, as I was cuing up the right spot in the film (the part where we had stopped the day before), I overheard an argument between two students.  "Thor could totally beat Ironman in a fight.  He’s a God!“ I let the disagreement continue a little then egged them on with "can you scientifically back that up?”  There was a pause, but then one of them said, “Ironman’s muscles are weaker.  What’s he gonna do when his suit runs out of batteries?”

Since we had been learning about Human Body Systems in class, a few more details came flying out in defence of their favourite heroes.  

Riding this wave I asked the whole class a more obscure question: “Which of the Avengers has the strongest digestive system?” Everyone joined in, and backed up their answer using what they had learned about nutrient/energy absorption.  When the conversation died out I hit play and we continued to watch the film.

As we all watched, my mind raced.  After the final credits I asked them “What makes super heroes super?”

That night I went home and made a glog about my favourite Avenger.  I showed the students in class the next day and their eyes bugged out.

Later that night I got the greatest comment of the year on our class website:


What followed in the next days is a bit of a blur now.  Together we made a list of awesome super heroes.  I went to our local comic book shop and got a few books.  We did some crowdsourced research on Hulk, Thor, Wonder Woman, Ms Marvel and others.  We consulted experts for advice.


We signed a tonne of books out of our local branch of the Toronto Public Library.  


We watched video clips and read about the human body and how awesome it is.

More than anything, we talked.

As soon as we felt ready, we started creating glogs.  This was the students’ first experience with the program, so I had to be cool with the fact that our computer lab (in our school’s library) was going to be louder than normal.  Our librarian was happy about that, and every person that passed through stopped to ask the students about their work (staff and other students).  We’d do daily check-ins where students would share their progress through a projector in class.  They’d ask each other how to do the cool things that they saw on screen.  They relied on each other to share their learning.

Here are some of the final products (click on the full size option in the top right corner of each glog for a larger version):






As I was working through this with my students, I was really thinking about Edutopia’s post on Science inquiry.  Eric Brusnell really stresses that “helping students use evidence to create explanations for natural phenomena is central to science inquiry.”  Fine, we weren’t learning about natural phenomena; however, science did help them create explanations for fictional phenomena.  While talking and writing about superheroes, students had to use evidence to explain how Hulk smashed things or why Thor was so agile.  Science brought superheroes to life for my class. 

And it all came out of a little question: “What makes super heroes super?" 


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