Ain’t nuthin’ but a Science thang…

I have blogged previously about the union of science and art as a teaching tool to get those inclined in either one more excited about exploring the other. In the camp I just finished teaching I tried to incorporate a good amount of arts and crafts projects, that were not just time fillers, but also helped the students understand a scientific concept, through creating a work of art. In one such activity we mapped a colorful vegetation profile of the salt marsh to help us understand how the physical stress imposed by flooding of salt water at high tide, creates distinct zonation among marsh plants. This little art project paid off, because the next day when we visited the salt marsh, the students remembered many names of plants, and their respective zones in the marsh. “I remember that one because  I drew it!” one student announced proudly. Ahhh the feeling of satisfaction when one of your ideas works….

Some science teachers in NYC and California are taking this idea of supplementing science education with artistic endeavors to a new, more lyrical, level. Students are being challenged to create rap songs illustrating scientific concepts and science history. In NYC 9 different schools send their best rappers to compete in the Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bring Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning, and Engagement in Science) competition. Read the full story here, published today on NPR’s code switch blog.

The videos are terrific. Sound science, transformed into complex and meaningful rhymes illustrates the students are actually learning, and its obvious from the fun, goofy atmosphere of the videos that they are having a blast. I want to be in these science classes!

As soon as a read this article, I thought, yea, scientists have been using rap to convey science for a while. Anyone who has attended a recent Benthics meeting, or met chemical ecologist Jeremy Long , can attest to this. At first, rapping during a research presentation seems a bit unprofessional, but if you think about it, its a succinct and engaging way to convey your results, and isn’t that always the goal in science? Share your findings without boring your audience to death?

I for one am delighted that this science rapping trend has extended beyond scientists and into the classroom. Even better, some of the student rappers at KIPP Bridge Middle School in Oakland, CA made a video telling the story of the discovery of DNA, and even explored the controversy discussed in a recent post on this blog. Check out their gangsta’ version of the DNA story!


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