Learning Science Using Musicby: Keith Smolinski

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The author works with a chorus teacher to create an interdisciplinary unit using music to supplement the science curriculum. This particular subject involved creating lyrics and music to help students learn cellular components vocabulary.

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Reviews (2)
  • on Thu Jul 12, 2012 6:42 PM

In this article, the reader will see how one teacher conducted a research study to see how music impacted student learning. Middle school students were learning about cells. So the teacher divided the students up into two groups of 93 students each. One group was enrolled in chorus and one group was not. The research study details can be found in the article; one conclusion reached was that many students did find music helpful in learning about cell parts and functions. A copy of the sheet music for “The Cell Song” is included.

Carolyn M  (Buffalo Grove, IL)
Carolyn M (Buffalo Grove, IL)

  • on Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:22 PM

This article covers an interesting study in which the author, a biology teacher with musical training, teamed up with a choral music teacher to assess the impact of a content-rich song (written by the author) on students’ biology knowledge. The study design was good; there were 93 students who learned the song in chorus and 93 who did not, they completed both a pre-test and a post-test, and they learned biology from teachers other than the author. Students who learned the song in chorus scored higher on a test than students who did not. In addition, students indicated in interviews that the song facilitated recall of facts, pronunciation of vocabulary words, and other aspects of learning. Two aspects of the article were mildly disappointing to me. First, few details were given about the test on which the singing students scored higher than the non-singing ones. The singing students scored “almost 10 points higher,” but the scale of the test (100 points?), means and standard deviations of the groups, and possible statistical significance of the difference were not reported. Also, it’s unclear whether the test only covered material from the song, or additional material that could dilute the song’s impact on test scores. Such details are presumably included in the author’s doctoral dissertation, on which this article was based, but they are worth restating. Second, the author explained his motivation for this work as, “When looking for music for my own classroom, I did not find any that was specific enough for my biology curriculum and addressed national and state standards.” While this is a reasonable statement, I wonder whether the author consulted the SingAboutScience.org database of ~6500 songs, including several about cellular components (the topic of the author’s song). For science teachers who wish to use music in the classroom, but do not want to create their own music, this database should prove useful.

Gregory Crowther  (Seattle, WA)
Gregory Crowther (Seattle, WA)

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