Science Bloggers for Students DonorsChoose Challenge

Friday, April 03, 2009

Reaching Urban Youth with Educational Hip-Hop

I believe in reaching learners at their own level. Use whatever tools possible to relate to them...and make it fun and memorable. Why education become synonymous with boredom. No wonder many children dread the school day.

Back during election time, students from Clark Academy of Atlanta, Georgia re-wrote T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" into a very accurate and jamming civics lesson. I know the concept of merging pop art and education isn't a new concept, especially in urban areas; but it still doesn't get it's due.

More recently, acclaimed forest ecologist and Evergreen State University researcher Dr. Nalini Nadkarni established a very successful summer program for high school students. It was a hit! Ecologists like Dr. Nadkarni and her colleagues worked together with free-style MC C.A.U.T.I.O.N. to introduce environmental science concepts to urban and rural students.

Hip-hop catches a bad rep at times. It is merely a medium to communicate. And it seems obvious to me it can communicate some positive things as well. But hey, I'm a fan so of course I'm defensive.

And as much as I am all about science education, no student can appreciate the subject without command of language and literacy. My aunt, an educator herself and education administrator for the state of Wisconsin, reminded me of this fact. She recommended that I find a way to incorporate literacy in my science lessons. "How?" I asked. "Science is so different than English." "It is." She admitted but it can be done. hen she taught math and science in inner-city Chicago Public Schools she taught relevant vocabulary words when she introduced new lessons. She required students to use these new words in sentences and different contexts and she taught them how to research and find supporting information to marry several related topics. Whew! That's alot. I try to perfect my teaching skills, but that conversation reminded me there is so much more to learn. Integrative projects and collaborations are important - not just for winning competitive grants - but also for making an impact. I'm opening my eyes (and ears) for cross-discipline opportunities.

With that in mind, I wanted to share this very recent discovery with you all. Black Jones of St. Louis, Missouri, was concerned about the academic achievement of his children and others in his community. Thinking back to his own memorable classroom experiences that involved music, movement and fun, he came up with a great formula - Educational Hip-Hop. This is a video of one of their Language Arts Hip-Hop Lessons, "I Know My Verbs".

For more information about Black Jones educational program, visit his website U Make It Happen.


William Wallace said...

The rap is actually well done. But don't you think the lyric "the class has began" is counter-productive to the topic?

Toaster Sunshine said...

Cool stuff!

I sincerely hope that STL becomes better known for this than for Nelly. There's some other educational hip-hop out there, in a genre called nerdcore. It's most famous musician is MC Frontalot, but there're also MC Hawking, YTCracker, Benjamin Bear, MC Chris, 1337 g33k b34t, Drown Radio Therapy, DJ Snyder, and several others. However, all of them rap primarily about computer science.

What I'd like to hear would be a rap song explaining the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology and its implications. I've been trying, but everything I compose seems to come out more like the UK's grimecore rap.

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