Rap Battles Promote Science Education Among Middle Schoolers

Telling Stories

By IGI Global on Aug 26, 2013
Contributed by Kristen Stauffer, Discipline Manager

What is your favorite mnemonic device? That visual or kinesthetic trick that helped you memorize facts and bits of history, like the lines of the treble clef, the colors of the rainbow, or the elements of the periodic table?

In the NPR article, "Science Rap B.A.T.T.L.E.S. Bring Hip-Hop Into The Classroom", Bay Area teacher Tom McFadden gets kids excited about science through rap. Recently, a group of seventh-graders from Oakland, CA, worked with McFadden to create a rap and music video about the discovery of DNA's structure, meaning an intelligent showdown between Watson & Crick and the under-recognized Rosalind Franklin:

Using music to tell the stories of the conflicts that surround the history of scientific discoveries makes them more accessible and memorable for students. “When you incorporate these stories, it allows you not only to make the scientific information much more fun to digest," McFadden says. "It allows you to discuss scientific process." When students begin to have intellectual arguments on the playground about the things they’re learning in the classroom, the material moves from mnemonic device to a higher level of engagement.

The video and DNA rap are connected to a larger movement called Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bring Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science), which was started by Christopher Emdin, a professor of education at Columbia University's Teacher’s College.

A recent IGI Global chapter written by Dr. Angela Kelly (Associate Director of Science Education, Stony Brook University, USA) entitled, "Promoting the Physical Sciences among Middle School Urban Youth through Informal Learning Experiences", describes “the effectiveness of developing informal physical science experiences for middle school students in underserved urban communities. Several cohorts of students have participated in inquiry-based physics and chemistry weekend classes that incorporated authentic applications from the urban setting, field visits to scientists’ laboratories and museums, advanced educational technology tools, and learning complex scientific concepts.”

Professor Kelly’s work summarizes that “well designed constructivist physical science programs are potentially transformative in improving students’ academic self-efficacy, confidence, and persistence in science, and positional advantage.” The theme of accessibility driving her article is parallel to the teaching methods behind the use of popular music to bring science into every day real life. In both studies, accessibility equals knowledge, power, and confidence.

This chapter is part of the IGI Global title Approaches and Strategies in Next Generation Science Learning, which is edited by Myint Swe Khine (Professor of Learning Sciences and Technology and head of Graduate Programs and Research) and Issa M. Saleh (Associate Professor and head of the Education Studies Division at Bahrain Teachers College), both from the University of Bahrain.

Approaches and Strategies in Next Generation Science Learning is also indexed in ERIC, the world's largest digital library of education literature. For a list of IGI Global titles recently included in ERIC, please visit the IGI Global Newsroom post, “A Comprehensive, Full-Text Database of Education Research”.

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