Students are learning real science through Star Wars high school course

STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Obi-Wan Kenobi/Ben Kenobi ( Alec Guinness). COURTESY OF DISNEY MEDIA DISTRIBUTION
STAR WARS: EPISODE IV - A NEW HOPE Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Obi-Wan Kenobi/Ben Kenobi ( Alec Guinness). COURTESY OF DISNEY MEDIA DISTRIBUTION /

George Lucas has often referred to Star Wars as a space fantasy as opposed to science fiction because so much about the Star Wars story world is outside the realm of possibility. The story of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and a galaxy at war between the light and dark sides of the Force, outside of its space setting, follows all the conventions of the fantasy genre.

Still, whole books have been written about the scientific possibilities that are actually represented through this far-off space fantasy. And two high school science teachers in Broadalbin, New York are using these possibilities to teach science in a unique and fun way (Via NEWS10). The senior-elective course developed by Gary Osarczuk and Brian Henry, who share a deep love of the Star Wars saga, is called Star Wars: The Course Awakens and is a STEM-based course for teaching a variety of scientific concepts at Broadalbin-Perth High School.

In addition to teaching important scientific concepts, the two teachers created the course to give senior-level students a memorable experience for their last year in high school, which is particularly important this year in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The course covers many scientific ideas related to Star Wars, such as space travel, the possibility and implications of cloning technology, and whether or not a lightsaber could exist in the real world. They’ve explored the planetary systems and forms of life in the Star Wars galaxy to see if there are any similar planets or life forms in the actual universe. The course has evolved beyond just science, however, to “to include elements of video production, scriptwriting, filmmaking, pop culture and even some business and marketing,” according to B-P’s district press release. Students have created a green screen studio to add Star Wars-inspired special effects into their photo and video productions.

The course has been a great learning experience for the students participating, and Osarczuk and Henry are excited for the future of the class. “The students have been so above and beyond for what our expectations have been for this class and I’m so happy that we’ve provided this opportunity for them,” Henry said.

George Lucas, whose George Lucas Educational Foundation serves to help educators prepare students to apply the knowledge and skills they learn in school in their adult lives, always knew the power of Star Wars to educate young people. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Lucas said, “[W]hen I make the films, I’m very aware of the fact that I’m teaching on a much larger scale than I would just as a parent or somebody walking through life.” Star Wars: The Course Awakens demonstrates the educational power inherent to Lucas’s vision.

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