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Science songs: teaching science through the power of music!

Written by Jacqui on May 14th, 2017.      0 comments

Using songs to teach science

Ever tried using mnemonics to help your students memorise those pesky science facts, like the colours of the visible spectrum, the order of the planets, or even biological classifications? They can get pretty complicated, and everyone ends up spending more time coming up with one than actually studying the material! 

With the increasing popularity of TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory, students of today are exposed to more and more science-themed media that could potentially be used for teaching. The show's theme song is one such example. How can a song reach kids more effectively than a page in a textbook or the classic 'chalk and talk' lesson?

Art Music Science Venn Diagram
Because music is the bridge between art and science!

Not everyone has the ability to just pick up a guitar and write a chart-topper. Fear not, the internet is teeming with great songs about science! Need a song to help you learn all elements of the periodic table? Try the tongue-twisting classic from the musical mathematician, Tom Lehrer's "The Elements". Want a children-friendly song about everyday chemistry, that has a cheerful melody and relatable lyrics? Check out "Meet the elements" by American rock band They May Be Giants, complete with an infographic-style music video. Using music in your science lessons is a fantastic way to help students understand science and serve as yet another engagement tool for you to use in a medium kids appreciate. So, can you go beyond simply just playing them a song? 

Let students create the songs

Why not ask your students to have a go at writing their own songs? The beauty of a student-directed approach is that in order to write decent lyrics for a song, one must have a good grasp of the science. A rap of something you copy-pasted from a Wikipedia article just isn't going to cut it. This leads to motivation for research, developing a real understanding of the topic and getting creative about communicating that knowledge. Here's a wonderful example by a student from "Science Idol 2012", a contest that ran as part of the New Zealand International Science Festival:
 

By making a science parody of a "top 40" song, the student artist was able to incorporate important chemistry concepts and a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour, all the while staying relevant. Your students will know how best to engage their own peers, so let them!

Galileo portrait with text
Want to make your own science meme? Check out this post!


Here's a look at what a science song-writing project for your students could involve:

  • They choose a tune that they enjoy.
  • Pick a topic of science, or the science behind an issue or phenomenon that they find interesting.
  • Do their own research about the selected topic.
  • Write lyrics with the information that they have gathered about their chosen topic.
  • Record the song!
  • Those who are audio-visually inclined could even create or shoot a music video for their new hit single!
For the students of Nueva School in California, this is exactly what they do on a regular basis. The Science Rap Academy (run by this guy) provides Year 7 and 8 students an opportunity to produce a song from start to finish, and here's a sample of what could be accomplished:




The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has also used this teaching technique for high school students very effectively, except these were distance education students submitting songs to show each other from across North America following health lessons via video conference.

Why not try out embedding the creation of a song as part of an assessment item in your next teaching sequence? This could be a standalone item or perhaps the science song could help support a classroom science poster they have made (bonus points!). By the time the project is complete, your students will never forget the science they were singing about!

Happy teaching,


Jacqui

Jacqui from Fizzics
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