General Science and Teaching

Introducing the League of SI Superheroes! (take two!)

Hello everyone! My name is Mark Esser, and I work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST. NIST is a nonregulatory agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that works to improve the nation’s measurement infrastructure and advance measurement science. Part of that mission includes maintaining the U.S. standards for length, mass, time, temperature and other international measurement (SI) metric units. All other U.S. measurements for everything from the amount of gas pumped at a service station to the grams of active ingredients in medicines to the time stamps used for stock market sales are traceable back to these central NIST standards. We have produced a comic book-style video pilot featuring the SI units personified as superheroes. The concept is intended to appeal to middle school-age children and educate them about the SI units and what they are used for. You can see the video at http://youtu.be/5ZHpOojFtH8 We’re looking to develop this idea into a series. We would pair upcoming episodes with handout materials featuring these characters and keyed to helping teachers achieve specific science curriculum goals. Before we move forward, we would like tap into the brainpower of the NSTA and get your opinions on the concept, the characters, and the value of this approach. If you’re interested in helping us out, please consider the following questions: Are comic style animations a good way to introduce these SI unit concepts to 5th and 6th grade students? What kinds of materials do you like to use to teach measurement concepts? What adventures could the SI superheroes have that would reinforce your measuring unit teaching goals? What would you recommend we do differently – or the same – in future videos? We would appreciate any input you might have. You can leave your comments here or contact me directly at mark.esser@nist.gov. Thanks!

Mark Esser
Mark Esser
30 Activity Points

Hi Mark, I have to admit that I do not quite understand what it is that you do, do you want the measuring system converted to the metric system or do you try to keep the inches safe? I like the idea of super hero's but would have liked to watch your video. The link gave me a 404 error. Hope you can get that fixed Doerthe

Doerthe Burke
Doerthe Burke
200 Activity Points

Doerthe, The link is correct, but it doesn't seem to want to load from the NSTA page. I don't know what the problem is. Perhaps you could copy and paste it? NIST is a federal agency charged with maintaining and improving the US measurement system, which is metric, transmitting those values to industry and the public, providing calibration standards and reference materials to US industry, and helping US industry solve their measurement problems. Perhaps the simplest and most familiar thing we do is provide training and the calibration standards that state weights and measures inspectors use to make sure that gas pumps, grocery scales, and other measuring devices used for commerce are accurate. We also provide technical guidance for the development of standards. For example, NIST develops the computer security standards and best practices for the federal government. It's difficult to sum up our entire mission because measurement touches so many things. We do advocate and support the use of the metric system, and as I said, the official measurement system of the US is metric, but use of the metric system is not mandatory like it is in so much of the rest of the world. I hope that gives you a clearer picture of our mission. The purpose of the video is simply to familiarize children with the SI units and the metric system in general, hopefully in a way that is memorable and entertaining. If you still have trouble viewing the video or need more in the way of clarification, don't hesitate to contact me. Thanks! Mark

Mark Esser
Mark Esser
30 Activity Points

I also had trouble with your link. I tried the cut and paste as suggested and still got the same error message. I will check back later in case you find a solution. Good luck with your project!

Susan O'Brien
Susan O'Brien
1870 Activity Points

It's because the period became part of the link somehow. I have deleted the period, so it should be clickable now. I will just have to learn to live with the fact that the sentence isn't properly punctuated. Sorry for the confusion!

Mark Esser
Mark Esser
30 Activity Points

Thanks! That works now! Grammar is overrated!

Susan O'Brien
Susan O'Brien
1870 Activity Points

Are comic style animations a good way to introduce these SI unit concepts to 5th and 6th grade students? yes What kinds of materials do you like to use to teach measurement concepts? I teach measurement when I teach about matter. We measure volume, mass and make density calculations. What adventures could the SI superheroes have that would reinforce your measuring unit teaching goals? It would be nice to have videos that would walk students through the solution of a problem--calculation of density, ratios, etc. It would be important to look at the Common Core math standards for the grade levels you are trying to reach. I know if something does not fit in well with the standards I am teaching, I tend to pass it up. A follow up lesson with practice sheet for students would be great, and could include information about your website and mission. It is amazing how many students in sixth grade cannot accurately use a ruler. (They tend to measure from the edge rather than the zero mark.) What would you recommend we do differently – or the same – in future videos? see above. "We do advocate and support the use of the metric system, and as I said, the official measurement system of the US is metric, but use of the metric system is not mandatory like it is in so much of the rest of the world." I did not realize that this was the official measurement system of the US.

Danielle Penrod
Danielle Penrod
2295 Activity Points

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