Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Learning Through Superhero Play


"Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!" Yes, it's Science with Superheroes! 

Superheroes can be a great way to introduce science to young children. These Superheroes were saving the day at The Udvar-Hazy Center during Air and Scare. 

In the spirit of Halloween, science learning with young children can get really creative through various costume themes. For instance, Superheroes, a popular imaginative play theme for preschoolers, can be a great lead-in to talk about science. Museum Educators and friends of Science in Pre-K, Meredith Downing and Sarah Erdman, published an article in “Teaching Young Children” about “The Science of Superheroes”. Downing and Erdman followed the lead of their students and noted an opportunity to expand the narrative of the Superhero to bring great learning opportunities, and even science, into their play. Take a look at how they break down a manageable lesson plan timeline for students to learn through origin stories, real-life super heroes, life science, and museum experts. 

To continue the discussion, the physical sciences can also be explored through the lens of The Science of Superheroes. Here are some examples:

Superheroes can have powers including flying through the air. What do students know about air? Can we see air? How do we know air is around us?

Some superheroes can swim at super speeds and even breath under water. What do students know about water? How does it move? Water and air go hand in hand in science concepts.

Building Structures
Superman could leap tall buildings in a single bound! What do students know about buildings? How do we build tall buildings? What shapes do you see in a tall building?

Light and Shadows
This is a great opportunity for imaginative play through Shadow Puppet Theater. Students can put on a Superhero performance. How can we make our Superhero shadows look really big? How do we get the shadows to move and fly? 

What are some ways you use Superheroes, or any costumes, to engage your students in science learning?