Singing about science: father-son edition

On Tuesday evening my son Phil and I headed to the University branch of the Seattle Public Library for “Sing a Song of Science” with veteran children’s musician Nancy Stewart. Most of the kids there were very young — at 7, Phil might have been the elder statesman of the bunch — and he initially lingered by the stairs rather than joining the others. But after he answered one of Nancy’s first questions and she recruited him to hold up a picture of the sun for her solar system song, he was in. Before long, he was wiggling and dancing on cue.

Nancy’s show was filled with questions and puzzles. Her backdrop included a box for each letter of the word S-C-I-E-N-C-E, and inside each box was another word beginning with that same letter. Most were straightforward, but the second “C” turned out to stand for Cephalopod, a nice curveball reminiscent of They Might Be Giants. Also reminiscent of TMBG was her skillful reinforcement of her lyrics with musical elements. For instance, a song about a pulley had a melody that climbed up the scale as the pulley rose upward.

Nancy asked us to complete the sentence, “Science is …” Phil shouted, “Surprising!” I offered, “Rigorous!” Which isn’t a bad two-word summary of the joys of science. If you do something rigorously, the surprises are more interesting (to me, anyway) because they are more likely to be “real.”

Toward the end, Nancy introduced a fanciful dinosaur counting song with the words, “Dinosaurs are not around anymore, but if they were, I think they’d want to drive cars.”

“Not pteranodons!” Phil countered. Presumably his thinking was, why drive when you can fly? Note, however, that pteranodons aren’t dinosaurs. Nice try, wise guy.

By the way, several of Nancy’s science songs are available online through her website, A search of the database reveals that some even come with online sheet music! (Note the “score” buttons in the Links column of the search results page.)
Nancy Stewart

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