Content-Related Scientific Humor

Do you know of anyone, or do you, yourself, use humor in the science classroom to teach concepts? Comment below about your experiences using humor in the science classroom. Nominate other teachers who regularly use humor to teach science.


47 thoughts on “Content-Related Scientific Humor

  1. I use humor daily in both my math and science classrooms. Humor enhances learning through laughter which brings extra oxygen to the brain–at least that is what I think!

  2. I am a geology professor and self-professed geek. For years, I have used humor in the classroom with generally positive results. (I even have a cast of characters for some question series that include Fluffy the Canoe Carrier and the International Geologist of Mystery.) Students comment that it helps them relax and remember the answers to the questions I am asking. A few have commented that they find it distracting, but those people are in the minority. My philosophy is that the humor helps students relax in a stressful situation (i.e. an exam), which allows the information they know to make it to the front of their heads. I have had many positive comments and reactions to this at several colleges and universities I have worked at, although some recent colleagues (who I believe lack funny bones) have commented it is juvenile and unprofessional and have calculated statistics on how distracting they find those questions. I firmly believe, though, that the benefits of using the humor outweigh some of these negative comments and will continue to use it!

      • I use a combination, though I am careful not to go too far so the exam isn’t just a joke fest. I have some multiple choice questions with “gag answers.” For example, one of my questions asks, “What kind of fault is it when two fault blocks are pulled apart?” The gag answer among the reasonable distractors is, “Your sibling’s fault.” With some questions, the humor is built into the question. For example, my International Geologist of Mystery is always in pursuit of the evil Dr. Nope, who always has some gadget that will deform the landscape to impede your progress. Then the question asks something like, “If Dr. Nope aimed the Spy-Be-Gone at an overhanging rock, what kind of mass wasting process would he create?” Finally, I also put a little humor in the instructions with something like, “Take a deep breath and relax. Yes, I am serious.” Or, “The penalty for divulging the answers on this exam will be confinement to a chair while listening to ten straight hours of Barry Manilow.”

  3. I like to teach food chains by telling my kids that the arrows that show the flow of energy through a food chain do not move from animal to plant. I tell them they are never going to see a group of plants planning an attack on a field of cows. I ask them to imagine a group of plants huddled together drawing their plan in the dirt and using signals to suddenly SPRING and take down a cow. They think its a pretty silly image (and it is) and it helps them remember that the arrows move from the organism that is being eaten, to the organism that is eating, not the other way around.

  4. When teaching the skeleto-muscular system, I’d set up my skeleton by the door to greet the students every day, with the joke of the day pinned to his chest. I’d have the kids guess the punchline as an ending to the class — Why didn’t the skeleton go to the dance? Because he didn’t have anybody to go with. and more. Google skeleton jokes!

  5. I love to be silly and goofy in class (chemistry), and tell mole jokes. I also do demos that the students find funny while I am demonstrating a chemical principle. For example, in the gas laws unit, I have taken a plastic doll head and pulled out all of the hair, leaving small holes. I fill the head with shaving cream and plug the neck with a small stopper. I place this in a vacuum chamber and watch the fun. Also in this unit, instead of just putting a marshmallow in the vacuum chamber, I build a “marshmallow man” from eight marshmallows with toothpicks. I draw a smile and eyes with a marker. I try to infuse humor whenever appropriate to help the students learn and remember.

    • I always tell them that they can eat the giant marshmallows when we’re done. They are very disappointed when the marshmallows shrink to an even smaller size than when we started because air won’t go back in.

  6. I agree.But in addition,making the class room friendly and associating what is been studied with some fun makes it easier to graps.

  7. Using humor also helps a teacher develop a good relationship with students, which can be key in their wanting to learn.

  8. I love to laugh and love seeing my students enjoying my class. I am the worst artist so my humans, animals, insects, etc. all take on the same shape (round with sticks) with slight variations to identify my animal. The kids (I teach middle school Biology) get a kick out of identifying what I am drawing and somehow they remember the entire topic from this horrible artwork. “Don’t you remember the day you thought the cow was a dog? That was the nitrogen cycle we talked about.”
    I also add my pet pug to my power point presentations throughout the year. When we see genetic hybridization I have a pug crossed with a beagle to get a puggle. The kids look forward to where my pug will show up in class.
    Cartoons are a great way to present a new topic as well. I use them in my ppts. and also on my webpage and change them frequently. It’s a great way to draw the kids to my page to check their homework assignments!

    • I can sympathize about being a bad artist! I, too, use a great deal of stick figures in my geology diagrams. I embrace it and even have a lesson about radiocarbon dating that involves stick figures named Cow, Cowboy, Black Bart, and Nosy Anthropologist (who bears a striking resemblance to Indiana Jones!). The students seem to get into it and I know I have fun with it.

  9. I have been known to give a test with all of the answers the same letter. I very rarely have someone not figure it out. But after the ‘test’ the comments are priceless.

  10. I have been integrating humor into daily lessons for years. I find that it tends to m make the students sit up and pay attention. Sometimes the examples used in the class are silly or connect to silly example.

  11. I teach middle school life and physical science and often use cartoons that relate to concepts to open class. I also offer extra credit to students who bring in cartoons that have to do with anything in science. Didn’t Gary Larson/Far Side start out as a science teacher?

  12. I use humor daily in all my classes. In fact, you might say, I do five to six standup acts a day! Using humor in my lessons adds a sense of ease in classroom, students see that I am human who enjoys what I do. A student might not remember the phases of mitosis but they might remember the nun joke that goes along with it. When you laugh with someone you feel a connection with that person. If I can get a student to laugh at a joke about Darwin, even if they can’t explain natural selection they know when they come into my classroom class won’t be boring.

  13. I try to use humor often in my chemistry classroom. Just general joking around with the students (mostly the second half of the year, after I know them a little better), and as part of my lessons. I do several lessons that the kids enjoy. One is a class portrait: I give each student a marshmallow and colored markers and ask them to make a self portrait. Then I put them in the vacuum jar, stacked on top of each other in a circle, with their “faces” facing out so they can see themselves. Then I go into a story about them going to college and the “freshman” 15 lbs they will gain, I turn on the pump and they “gain weight.” Then I tell then about getting older and wrinkled and I let the air back into the jar and they shrivel up. Then I go into another story about Botox and I turn the vacuum pump back on, then the nursing home look, when they have their 80th high school reunion, what they will look like, and we let the air back in again. They love it, and lots of them want to keep their marshmallow. Sometimes we keep them all together as a class, and display them for the rest of the year. I try to make up stories to go with some of the demos and they find these most memorable.

  14. I teach physics and embed humor throughout the course. Jokes are purposefully added into presentations, demonstrations, labs, quizzes, and tests. Students regularly return from college and say mournfully to me, “Mr. B, my college professor is okay, but his/her tests…they’re just not funny!”
    Often a student’s comment in class lends itself to a punny reply, which the students always seem to appreciate highly.
    I also write songs about physics, and they tend to incorporate a lot of humor.
    Something I have added this year is a series of “Minute to Win It” type challenges; there is usually a physics twist which makes it impossible to win, but extremely funny for the class.
    My overall philosophy is that if I am not having fun, neither will my students.

  15. I use humor when I teach a different meaning to a word. For example, in math, the book will refer to the “operation”. I will say to them something like, “Are they talking about someone having their tonsils removed.” They will laugh and say no and we will then discuss the math meaning of the word.

  16. I teach freshman Biology and AP Biology and use humor constantly, but especially on Fridays. I collect cartoons that are science related and insert them into presentations regularly. I also search for YouTube music videos and always aim for at least one song/topic.

  17. I also try to use humor in my science classes as often as I can. I spent a summer putting together my own science comic book filled with science related cartoons. Most of them are from The Far Side, Frank and Ernest, Reality Check, and Off the Mark. I used as a search engine and just went through all of The Far Side books available. I teach all of the sciences at my school, so the last step was to classify them into subject area.

    I have also had projects in which students create their own cartoons. An example was in my forensic science class. I gave my students many examples (mostly The Far Side) and a rubric to follow. I was blown away by their creativity! I just came across another activity called “cartoon classification” which has students classify cartoon characters to model scientific classification.

  18. I teach earth science. There is a scene from one of the “Jackass” movies where WeeMan gets under a giant orange cone and stands at the bottom of an escalator (coming down.) The people are forced to crowd together in a big muddle. It’s pretty funny. I show this, then I teach about alluvial fans. After explaining alluvial fans, I click the mouse and an orange cone appears on the screen at the bottom of the alluvial fan. It’s effective, relevant, and funny!

  19. I think I use humor everyday. Although sometimes it falls on deaf ear. The way I use humor is by changing pronunciation of words.

  20. I teach freshmen, who are still so young and silly. My use of humor could be a play on the word “schist” or me just being silly. I like to poke fun at myself too and I don’t mind if my students join in (my hair line is a favorite) because I think its important for kids to know it’s ok to laugh at yourself.

  21. I use humor in the classroom to keep students interested and also to build rapport. I work with special education students in the science classroom and humor tends to help them relax and feel comfortable in the classroom. It creates a safe environment for kids who struggle and often dislike school. I find if they are comfortable with you as a teacher, they are more likely to take risks and will work harder to be successful.

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