Here’s a little homeschooling secret — a confession, really. Science at our house doesn’t usually involve experiments. There, I said it. There are so many great hands-off ideas for studying science, though. I’m not anti-experiment — that would be a weird stance to take, ha! — but I just don’t have the bandwidth to carry out hands-on science all the time!
Fortunately, I am able to actively supplement elementary science and nurture scientific literacy in many different independent ways. One fun idea? Highly-illustrated science books. An even more fun idea? Hilarious science books.
Disclosure of Material Connections: I received the Wile E Coyote Physical Science Genius 4-book set from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this review. All opinions — and photographs! ;) — are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.
Classical Education and Comic Books
Yes, I’m a classical homeschooler, talking about using a cartoon character to teach physics. If this seems absurd, it honestly shouldn’t be! Mixing educational philosophies is not wrong. We mix in eclectic STEM goodness with our antiquities, and wouldn’t have it any other way. People make weird rules for themselves, and end up missing out on fun.
Teaching Physics for Kids with Timberdoodle’s Wile E. Coyote Physical Science Genius books from Timberdoodle
Timberdoodle has a knack for find really fun, unusual enrichment items. The Wile E. Coyote Experiments with… Physical Science Genius books are hilariously clever; my brothers and I would have loved these when we were kids. The Wile E. Coyote books are bundled into Timberdoodle’s second-grade curriculum kit, but can be purchased separately and used to supplement any curriculum, second through sixth grade. We’ve added them to our classical education line-up this year (Aveline is in combo fourth/fifth grade, so I’d recommend the books for anyone in second through sixth grade.)
As you’ve probably deduced from the cover art — and from the Smash! Whoosh! Thud! Zoom! titles — the series uses the slapstick misadventures of Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner to vividly illustrate what happens when Wile E. underestimates the laws of physics. (And yes. He does this a lot.)
Each of the four 32-page Wile E. Coyote Physical Science books covers a different aspect of physics, from simple machines to speed and velocity.
- Smash! Wile E. Coyote: Experiments with Simple Machines
- Whoosh: Wile E. Coyote with Flight and Gravity
- Thud! Wile E. Coyote: Experiments with Forces and Motion
- Zoom: Wile E. Coyote with Speed and Velocity
Are they non-fiction graphic novels?
Although these action-packed, comic-driven books are produced by popular graphic novel publisher Capstone, they aren’t quite graphic novels, since the content isn’t communicated through dialogue and speech bubbles. (If you’re looking for non-fiction comics, though, here’s a list of my favorite science and history graphic novels.)
I would be tempted to categorize the Wile E. Coyote books as illustrated non-fiction, but cartoon are obviously fictional.These books aren’t easy to categorize, but if your kids are fans of science-themed graphic novels, I feel confident these books will be a hit as well.
Let’s peek inside each book and see what physics concepts you can expect.
Look inside Smash! Wile E. Coyote: Experiments with Simple Machines
As the comedic coyote tries to trap the roadrunner in Smash! Wile E. Coyote: Experiments with Simple Machines, kids will learn all about
- loads, and
- rotational motion.
What Wile E. doesn’t know is that sometimes an output force from one system can act as an input force for another. (pages 8-9)
Look inside Whoosh! Wile E. Coyote Experiments with Flight and Gravity
A glance at the cover reveals just how little Wile E. knows about flight. Inside Whoosh! Wile E. Coyote Experiments with Flight and Gravity, kids will learn how airplanes fly, and understand how
- thrust, and
Wile. E’s direction is also changing. Now he is moving south instead of west. (pages 10-11)
Look inside Thud! Wile E. Coyote: Experiments with Forces and Motion
In Thud! Wile E. Coyote: Experiments with Forces and Motion, young students will dive into the three laws of motion, and learn about
- opposing forces,
- forward motion,
- actions and reactions, and
Only a strong opposing force can stop Wile E.’s forward motion. Unfortunately for him, a rock wall provides the force needed. Ouch! (pages 10-11)
Look inside Zoom! Wile E. Coyote: Experiments with Speed and Velocity
In Zoom! Wile E. Coyote: Experiments with Speed and Velocity, readers will follow along with Wile E. as he bumbles through ideas involving
- average vs. instantaneous speed,
- average vs. instantaneous velocity,
- displacement, and
- deceleration, and
Wile E. has a plan to travel faster. But he is making a mistake. He doesn’t understand there are two kinds of speed. (pages 12-13)
Q: What if my kids don’t watch the TV show? Are the Wile E Coyote science books still useful?
A: My 9-year-old had never even heard of Wile E. Coyote — the scheming cartoon character debuted in 1949 — but she burst out laughing when she first saw the books, and continued to be absolutely delighted while reading. The antics of Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote, whether in original animated form or in updated science-themed books, have enduring comedic appeal. So kids definitely don’t have to be familiar with the TV episodes in order to enjoy.
Q: Are the Wile E Coyote science books violent?
These books are definitely wild, and totally slapstick-driven. If your kiddos are extra sensitive, quite young, or inclined to be upset by the idea of a cartoon coyote continuously flattened into rock outcropping, crunched into the desert landscape, or peeled off an asphalt roadway, then the books might not be a great fit for you. But if your kids are old enough to separate exaggerated comedic violence from realistic danger, these books are a great way to teach the concepts of physics. (They definitely won’t plant the idea that jumping off a garage with an umbrella actually works. So if you have a kid who tends toward imitable behavior, that’s a plus.)
Q: How can I use these books to give my kids credit for science?
Just let your kids read! Yup, it really is that simple. (This is all about hands-off, independent learning, remember?)
The Wile E. Coyote Physical Science Genius books provide a brief, but solid, introduction to elementary physics.
If, like me, you’re handing these to your kids for free-reads (independent reading with no assignments attached) here’s how to give them elementary science credit for them:
- jot down the book titles in your school records or portfolio, then
- flip to the back cover of each volume, and
- use the index of terms and concepts to write down exactly which scientific concepts were covered.
While I wouldn’t count these as a full year of science, they’re perfect for an early elementary unit on physics (or just for extra-sciency fun.) Including science graphic novels like the Wile E. Coyote Physical Genius set in your homeschool increases scientific literacy, and shows kids a sometimes-intimidating topic like physics is actually approachable, and can even be downright funny.
Browse Timberdoodle’s entire selection of super fun ways to teach homeschool physics