Anyone who knows me as a teacher knows I love incorporating real-w0rld applications into my curriculum. Anyone who knows me as a sitcom writer knows I have a soft spot for Nick and Disney Channel comedies. Fortunately for me (and my students), Nick’s show The Thundermans has the best of both worlds.
Our first foray into the physics of the Thundermans arrived with the episode Report Card. In the episode, Max is building a rocket – the Max 10 – that he hopes to send out into the stratosphere. Phoebe sends it out prematurely; Max begins work on the Max 11. After Max is promoted to advanced math, his Math Bowl teammates Sarah and Evan end up in his lair, where Max states “Its a standard 30 kg rocket and it required 1100 Nt of thrust to escape the earth’s gravitational field.” Bingo! A learning opportunity!
My AP Physics did some quick calculations and sure enough, 1100 Nt is a pretty good approximation! My students even got Thundermans star Jack Griffo to retweet their solution!
As you might imagine, they were thrilled.
As the school year progressed, I found additional opportunities to integrate video analysis and the Thundermans into the physics curriculum.
At the end of the year, as we approached finals, I decided to allow my students to decide on 1/3 of their final. 2/3 would be problems, the rest was their choice. Apparently my influence as both a teacher and a sitcom writer had rubbed off on them. They decided they want to write a science-based scene for the Thundermans. I thought it was an awesome idea; the only caveat was that I would send the five or six best scripts on to the executive producer of the show.
Their scripts were funny and so well based in science. My favorite line (Sarah to Max): Our love is like pi … neverending! It was a hard time selecting just six! But I sent them off.
Imagine my surprise, checking my school email in line at the In N Out Burger near Palo Alto, to receive a reply from Jed Spingarn, Exec Producer of the Thundermans with the subject line “Very cool!” Here’s what he said:
Hi, Mr. Walters. Thank you for sending me the assignments you had the girls in your science class do. They’re, in a word, awesome. It will be very tempting not to steal lines like “Your twirls are sucky” or the slang word “Awkies” or the line “Your love is like pi – it’s neverending” or the villain name “Led Skeletin.” I could go on. And they’re obviously superfans — I saw so many spot-on references to past episodes!
Moreover, I was excited to see that this all happened at Marymount. I grew up in New York and attended Town School on 76th St and the East River, and every morning I would take the 5th Avenue bus down to 79th and 5th, then switch over to the 79th St. crosstown bus at the stop right around the corner from you guys. Little did I suspect that someday the students of Marymount would be writing scenes from a show I created. So cool!
So thank you so much for sending those. The other writers will be very happy to know that 1100Nt of thrust is required for the Max-11 to achieve escape velocity. Please tell your students that I was blown away by their originality and humor and intelligence and thank you for using our show for your assignment. You’re obviously a fun and very creative teacher. I wonder if I can work in the name “Marymount” in a future episode… Maybe I’ll make that my homework assignment.
So look for the name Marymount (or at least “Mr Walters”) in an upcoming episode!