I think Star Trek is hands down one of the greatest shows ever made. No other show in history has had such a positive impact on so many people, young and old. Thousands of successful engineers and scientists proudly proclaim that their career choices were influenced by Star Trek. How many TV shows can claim that kind of success and influence?
Parents who value the education of their children will always be looking for ways to turn interests into teachable moments, and when we find a show like this, a show so powerful, we must take advantage of the opportunities to use it to inspire and educate.
If you are a Netflix subscriber, you can watch all the episodes from all 5 series (the Original, Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise) online via instant watch. That is 28 seasons, 695 episodes of sci-fi goodness. They even have the (horrible) animated series from 1973 available.
1. Real life scientists
Share with your children the stories of those scientists who are where they are today because they were inspired by Trek. The big wigs at NASA, for many decades, have been Star Trek fans. NASA’s first shuttle was actually named the Enterprise, in honor of Star Trek’s quintessential Starship Enterprise. Star Trek even influenced astronauts. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, was a huge fan! The creators of the cell phone, personal computer, MRI scanner, tablet, automatic sliding doors, and Bluetooth were all inspired by Star Trek. Martin Cooper, the inventor of the cell phone, developed it after watching Star Trek and thinking to himself, “We need to communicate the way they do on Star Trek.”
2. Fiction meets reality
Tell your children the stories of the real-life items that began as fiction in the Star Trek universe and eventually became a reality.
- Warp Drive a Reality? The fictional system that enables starships to go faster than light is currently being investigated by a group of physicists. Even if this system never does become a reality, it has helped to spark a world-wide interest in physics.
- Medical Tricorders? This is closer to becoming a reality than warp drive. The US government is close to creating a handheld tool that can provide instant patient vital stats from 40 feet away.
- Hyposprays? Even closer to becoming a reality to the public is the painless, needle-less injections used by every doctor on Star Trek. The “Jet Injector” is used for vaccinations by governments and other agencies around the world.
- Cloaking?? For real?? Researchers at the University of California used a mixture of several materials including Teflon, ceramic, and fiber to deflect light waves around an object. This deflection of light truly cloaked the object from sight. It is a start!
- Tractor Beams? Physicists in Australia have developed a device that can actually transport small super small particles over 5 feet. Transport. As in not touching them with any object other than light beams.
- Universal Translator? A German professor has created the world’s first automatic language translator. This software will allow students all over the world to listen to lectures in any language.
- And the coolest thing yet…a full-functioning Enterprise. An engineer and Star Trek buff has an entire website devoted to the claim that within 20 years we could build a starship that would not only make it to Mars in only 90 days, but house up to 1000 people in a comfortable indoor-Earth like atmosphere. The thoroughly researched specs, plans and schedules can be found at buildtheenterprise.org
3. Language arts
Increase your language skills by learning the vocabulary of Star Trek. I’ve created a Trekkie vocabulary list for you, as well as a special printable to help your kids learn each word.
Read The Physics of Star Trek together. What warps when you’re traveling at warp speed? What is the difference between a wormhole and a black hole? Anyone who has ever wondered “could this really happen?” will gain useful insights into the Star Trek universe (and, incidentally, the real world of physics) in this charming and accessible guide.
5. For the littles
If you have littles, read the Star Trek Book of Opposites. Your olders will love reading this to their younger siblings.
from the episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”
6. Calculate math with Tribbles
For the math whizzes, you could try calculating how many Tribbles you would have after so many days of multiplying. One Tribble gives birth to 10 baby Tribbles every 12 hours!
7. Use Star Trek episodes to teach history
While it’s not exactly famous for its historical accuracy, there are certain episodes that challenge our thinking about historical events. They make for great conversation starters and can even lead to more research and debate. Best of all, some episodes are just plain fun and make great introductions into periods or events.
8. Delve even deeper in history
Star Trek and History is a fantastic book that explores the REAL history on which the stories are rooted
9. Starfleet Academy
Starfleet Academy is a branch of the International Star Trek Fan Association. Many of the classes are entertainment based, but even more are legit educational, such as Baroque Artists & Art, Politics and Government: US Presidents, WWI: An Overview, Basic Emergency Care , History of Microorganisms, William Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Introduction to Thermodynamics. View a course catalog here.
10. Learn literature with Star Trek
In addition to the many historical figures that are portrayed in Star Trek, there are many fictional characters that incorporated. Data in The Next Generation had an obsession with Sherlock Holmes. Robin Hood also appears in an episode of The Next Generation. On Voyager, there is a holodeck program, based on Beowulf. Rumpelstiltskin appeared in Deep Space Nine. Watching these episodes may be enough to spark an interest and encourage your child to read the real stories.
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