WonderCon in Anaheim
The Anaheim Convention Center during WonderCon. Courtesy Comic-Con International

San Diego educators and scientists took center stage at the WonderCon pop culture conference in Anaheim last weekend.

The event, which is presented by the folks behind San Diego Comic-Con International, featured several local educators, professionals and experts talking about pop culture’s role in society.

At a discussion on “Engaging Students with Comics in the Classroom,” local educators talked about the success they’ve had introducing students to graphic novels like “March,” which chronicled the life of Civil Rights leader John Lewis.

“This is a transformative text,” said Mick Rabin, a resource teacher in the Youth Advocacy Department at the San Diego Unified School District. “I read this with my third graders.”

Jaime Chavez, a counselor for San Diego Unified, highlighted “When Stars are Scattered,” a graphic novel memoir co-authored by a Somali refugee recounting his experiences fleeing his war-torn country and growing up in a refugee camp.

“It’s a very powerful bookto share with our students because we have a lot of immigrants and refugees,” Chavez said.

The County Office of Education has a Graphic Novel Book Club that is run in collaboration with Comic-Con, according to Jewyl Alderson, integrated curriculum coordinator for the county. The club aims to increase exposure to good reads and raise interesting conversations. 

“It’s a great opportunity for us all to talk comics,” Alderson said.

Meanwhile, two staff members from the San Diego Natural History Museum were also educating WonderCon attendees about archaeology and paleontology in the Star Trek world. Dr. Ashley Poust, a paleontologist and Jesse Shelmire, an archaeologist and paleontologist, dissected reality and fiction Star Trek television shows and movies.

The two talked about what the movies and shows got right and what they got wrong.

“Respect cultures, even if they’re fictional cultures,” said Shelmire, regarding his pet peeve.

Poust wished he had the futuristic equipment Star Trek characters employ, joking he wished he had a tricorder or be able to time travel.

“I can’t travel the stars but paleontology is the cheating way of traveling the stars,” he said.