Culture vulture

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Ken Brechin looks at a comic way of teaching science

Best book ever

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (Fourth Estate) is a novel which sees the Second World War through the eyes of two comic book writers. I love its epic nature, taking you through the war and American politics of the time as well as the golden age of comic books. It had a huge emotional impact on me.

Best film ever

The Train, John Frankenheimer's 1964 story of the French Resistance trying to save art treasures, starring Burt Lancaster (pictured). My Dad was a Lancaster fan and his films were big family events. I loved the black and white photography and grappling with the question of whether art is worth dying for.

Inspired by opera

I grew up in the east of Scotland and although we loved opera and listened to recordings, I never saw any until 2002, when I saw Tosca at Newcastle Theatre Royal. It had a contemporary feel, but the emotions were timeless.

It blew me away.

To share with pupils

The Woodhorn Colliery Museum in Ashington, Northumbria. A former coal miner conducts a great tour and the students get totally involved. It's a powerful experience. We look at the pictures of the pitmen painters who set up the Ashington Art Group, a fascinating record of daily life in the 1930s, including women in the home and the animals that worked the pits.

Looking forward We're launching Cramlington Comics, the school's in-house comic book company, to produce digital strips that deal with scientific concepts and which can be used by staff on interactive whiteboards. I've recruited student artists and graphic designers, and I'm drawing strips (I've drawn them since I was a kid) and I love comics and graphic novels in general.

We've created characters to illustrate scientific concepts such as Catalyst, who changes from solid to liquid to gas. Our psychology students and staff are doing strips, including one that looks at manic depression and the nature of electric shock treatment.

Ken Brechin, 31, is head of science at Cramlington community high school, Northumberland, which has science college status. He was talking to Elaine Williams

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