Good Thinking! — Introducing: Bunsen
The latest episode of SSEC's Good Thinking! series, Fired Up About Energy, features a new classroom guide: Bunsen the (you guessed it) Bunsen burner. The episode focuses on teaching and discussing energy in the classroom, and explores common student misconceptions related to the topic. As a piece of lab equipment with perennial importance to the study of all things chemistry, Bunsen provides an invaluable resource to Ms. Reyes as she refines her teaching.
As a character, Bunsen couldn't be more different from Blossom, the laid-back life science classroom guide (check out Blossom in Natural Selection: Common Misconceptions) or Gummerson, the gruff, no-nonsense expert on pedagogy and classroom dynamics (see Gummerson in Conceptual Change: How New Ideas Take Root). Instead, Bunsen brings a high-energy, comedic approach that keeps chemistry topics as exciting as they are critical to science education.
Bunsen's creator, FableVision Studios Creative Director Leigh Hallisey, explains:
"For a lot of people, a Bunsen burner might seem like it would be boring and buttoned up, should it ever come to life. (I'm not sure how many people have actually wondered what it would be like exactly, but that's what we have to do at FableVision--a brutal job but we take it in stride). But if Bunsen is all about energy and chemical reactions and changing states of matter, how could he POSSIBLY be stuffy? I pictured him being really hyper and over the top excited about the world. I mean, he's literally "on fire," so he needed to have a big personality. For some reason my mind channeled a cross between Jack McFarland from Will and Grace and Craig Middlebrooks from Parks and Recreation--hilarious, excitable, a little dramatic, lots of sotto voce remarks and witty banter with Ms. Reyes. Bunsen is a great mix of smart, witty, and occasionally snarky, like the best kind of sitcom character. He brings a lot of life to every scene he's in."
While the character concept and personality were written into the script, the creative team needed to find an actor to truly bring Bunsen to life. As Leigh explains, "I think the biggest thing that makes Bunsen who he is is his voice. I remember when Danielle and I were in the recording studio we were absolutely crying at John DeSilvestri's read."
DeSilvestri, a professional voice actor based in New York, lent his talents to the project and quickly captured the essence of Bunsen's character, resulting in one of the series' most unique and entertaining personalities.
"I know we aren't supposed to have a favorite child, but Bunsen melts my heart," admits Hallisey, describing her affection for the character. She went on to add, "I could watch his episodes a hundred times and never get bored. I just wish he was in more of them--fingers crossed season two leans really heavy on chemistry". The SSEC team fully agrees.