My lab works in part on high-throughput screening (HTS) of small-molecule libraries. Here is my low-budget tribute to the high-tech machines that facilitate this work.
Fundamentally, music is an auditory channel of information, so podcasting about music is a logical thing to do. I have no special expertise in audio recording or producing, so I’ve been slow to attempt this, but today I present an MP3 file of a 45-minute conversation that others may find interesting. It’s with Monty Harper, a previous interviewee who is now in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to support a new children’s science music album. Listen in as Monty and I discuss the distillation of science into song, possible uses of non-”litany-of-facts” songs in the classroom, and much more!
Many thanks to Monty for help with the processing of the audio files … and to David Newman for the Sing About Science theme song.
With the encouragement and assistance of colleagues in the UW School of Nursing, I contributed a short piece to their American Biology Teacher series on the neurobiology of learning. The article is called “Making material more memorable … with music.” It’s meant as a concise guide for teachers rather than as a comprehensive literature review. Check it out!
I’m excited that a paper of mine (with colleague Katie Davis) has just been published on the website of the Journal of Chemical Education. The title is Amino Acid Jazz: Amplifying Biochemistry Concepts with Content-Rich Music. Here is the abstract:
Music is not typically used in teaching high school- and college-level chemistry. This may be attributable to instructors’ perceptions of educational music as being solely for memorization, their uncertainty about how to incorporate music effectively, or because of a limited number of suitable songs in which the music and words reinforce each other. To address these issues by way of a biochemistry example, we created Amino Acid Jazz, a sing-along exercise in which students synthesize a musical polypeptide from amino acid building blocks. Along the way, musical elements indicate key points about protein chemistry and structure. This exercise is an example of how the music of a song can amplify (rather than distract from) the content of the lyrics, and can thus promote knowledge acquisition that goes beyond rote memorization. Furthermore, it may be extended to incorporate students’ own creative ideas. Most initial feedback from students and other teachers has been positive
If anyone wants a PDF of the full paper and/or a MP3 of a live demo, just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). It is light on assessment data, but I think the general approach is explained in a compelling fashion (if I do say so myself).
It’s time to update our previous compilation of crowdfunding campaigns related to science-based music.
1. Monty Harper: Songs From The Science Frontier (July 8 to August 22, 2010).
2. Baba Brinkman: The Rap Guide to Evolution – Educational DVD (December 2010 to January 2011).
3. Greg Crowther: Sing About Science & Math (May 1-31, 2012).
4. John Boswell and Will Crowley: An Album All About Science! (July 16 to August 15, 2012).
5. Lode McCammon: Music Can Move Us (November-December, 2012).
6. Baba Brinkman: Darwin Meets Chaucer Off-Broadway (January 23 to March 24, 2013).
7. Tom McFadden: Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science (March 20 to April 16, 2013).
8. Science Notes: Science Notes Web App (April 29 to June 25, 2013).
9. Baba Brinkman: Don’t Sleep With Mean People (July-August, 2013).
This might not be a real trend, but it sure feels like one.
Facilitating student science songwriting and performing is hard, and past efforts along these lines have seemed pretty intermittent and isolated. But a number of additional related projects have emerged this year.
In June we got a closer look at Chris Emdin’s science education through hip-hop program, thanks to a compilation of Science Genius Rap B.A.T.T.L.E.S. finalists. (B.A.T.T.L.E.S. = Bringing Attention to Transforming, Teaching and Learning Science.)
The educational significance of these raps has been explained by Emdin in an interview smartly excerpted by Robert Gonzalez for io9.com.
Emdin: A lot of people do hip hop pedagogy [where they think] ‘kids like rap, [so] let’s rap,’ and they create raps or they perform raps and it doesn’t work. And the reason why it doesn’t work is because it’s what goes on in school already, [set] to rhyme. And that doesn’t work.
The distinction between saying something that rhymes and being a prolific MC [is that the latter] requires analogy, metaphor, drawing connections, weaving stories
Nice: And… cross references
Nice: Which means you have to learn and know some knowledge here and some knowledge here in order to access that and bring it together.
Emdin: Absolutely. I was working with a young person once, and we get into the classroom and I want him to learn about water. So I teach him the lesson and he says ‘yeah, the lesson was alright,’ so I go ‘look, you’re a rapper… spit a rap about [water]‘ and he starts rapping about everything but water. He’s like ‘I’m fly, I’m sick.” He had like one line, ‘I flow like water’ … and I’m like ‘that’s not going to work. Go home, read the text book, come back and write a new rhyme.’
And he comes back in the morning and he’s like ‘yo, it’s type hard to spit a 16 about H2O.’
Meanwhile, Tom McFadden has been staging his own science rap battles: Rosalind Franklin vs. Watson & Crick, Pluto-is-a-planet people vs. no-it’s-not people, etc. In addition to the advantages of the Emdin approach, this also focuses students’ attention on the data upon which scientific arguments (and scientific progress) are based.
Getting students to tackle actual methods and data in their songs is not easy; I know because my own course was a complete failure in this respect! Kudos to Tom for this engaging approach for highlighting the process of science.
After a couple of months away from the database, I finally had a chance to add some new STEM songs this past weekend. Additions include new songs from the Science Genius Rap B.A.T.T.L.E.S. finalists, Tom McFadden, Larry Lesser, Scott Crawford, Neil Garg’s organic chemistry students, Symphony of Science, Russell Wodehouse, and me. And also some older songs suggested by ace correspondent Leonard Braun.
In addition, I’ve made one small change to the STEM lesson plan page. A recent NSF grant review complained, “the [SingAboutScience.org] section for lessons using science music doesn’t contain any lessons.” Presumably this reviewer failed to select a subject area (Astronomy, Biology/Life Science, Chemistry, Earth Science, General Science, Math, and/or Physics/Physical Science), resulting in no hits. To avoid this problem in the future, all subject areas are now checked by default. (Perhaps getting too many hits is less disconcerting than getting too few?)