Friday, September 25, 2015

Science with a Song –  Connecting Music to STEAM
Maryann "Mar." Harman
Founder of Music with Mar., LLC

STEAM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math. Music is part of the Art portion and very much belongs in the mix for all the wonderful enhancements it makes to learning.  For this blog, I am focusing on how the A  part of STEAM is weaved into the Science part.
Kids are never the problem. They are born scientists. The problem is always the adults. They beat the curiosity out of kids. They outnumber kids. They vote. They wield resources. That’s why my public focus is primarily adults. Neill deGrasse Tyson

While Neill changes the minds of adults, I will focus on children.   If he can get adults to understand, it will make teaching easier.  Thanks, Neill.   First keep in mind that our job isn’t to teach children to be scientists.  Our job is to awaken that little scientist, because he/she is already there. 

            Child Craft Education had me compose a series of songs to use in a science curriculum for early childhood - the "Celebrate Science Series".  I began researching, my head spinning with ideas.  I was to write five songs for each of the five strands of science : 
Physical Science
Life Science
Earth Science
Inquiry Science
Personal / Social Science

Knowing that music and movement get both hemispheres of the brain involved with the learning process, enhancing retention, I began to put together activities including music (songs, rhythm activities) / movement (dance, drama, games).

Nearly 100% of past winners in the prestigious Siemens Westinghouse Competition in math, science, and technology (for high school students) play one or more musical instruments.  The Midland Chemist 05BRAIN FACT Music creates a positive state for learning because it helps to reduce stress levels, heighten attention, enhance concentration, reinforce memory and stimulate motivation. Campbell, 97; Jensen,00

Albert Einstein said he discovered his theory of relativity through music.

“If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a MUSICIAN. I often think in MUSIC. I live my daydreams in MUSIC. I see my life in terms of MUSIC

With all this proof, with so many great minds recognizing the role music plays in helping create a scientific mind, we MUST keep it in our education system.  Let’s explore some ways to do that with science.

Children often look at science as a ‘hard’ subject.  Let’s change that perspective.  Let’s get children to look at science as a very ‘interesting’ subject.  When I was younger, I was told magic was fun, interesting and science was hard.  But, wait.   Magic is science.  Looking at it that way, the subject became so much more appealing.

BRAIN FACT  Moving activates muscle memory, which is helpful for students who can only learn by moving .  Hannaford, 2005

Magnets  Using this brain fact, I asked myself "What does a magnet do?"  
It attracts or repels, much like swing dancing.  I taught the children to do what magnets do by swing dancing.  What better way to remember magnets then to have your whole body engaged in the activity of attracting and repelling?  With the appeal of such shows as "So, You Think You Can Dance", children actually enjoy learning this!
Check this song out on "Music Makes it Memorable".    Magnets

Onto using another BRAIN FACT ~ ~ ~ ~ 

BRAIN FACT When children act out stories, they are reviewing the organization of the story and putting things in sequence, a science process skill. Epstein & Trimis 02 
Songs like “Peanut Butter & Jelly” teach scientific process.   This can be such a fun lesson.   First is the conversation on what is needed, which could lead into who eats these sandwiches and who doesn't.  That of course could lend itself to graphing...  Oh my.....  My teacher Mind!!!!

      Sing the song and then have them tell you the ingredients - peanuts, grapes and bread.  (If you have a child with peanut allergies, you will have to modify the lesson.) The singing of the song itself teaches control of the voice as we sing "Peanut, peanut butter" and whisper "and jelly".  Acting out the words activate the motor cortex which aids in retention and comprehension.

Peanut Butter & Jelly
Peanut, peanut butter (sing) and jelly (whisper)
First you get some peanuts and you crack ‘em.  You crack 'em, crack 'em, crack 'em
Then you squash ‘em, squash ‘em, squash ‘em, squash ‘em, squash ‘em
Then you spread ‘em, spread ‘em, spread ‘em (peanut, peanut butter and jelly)
Then you get some grapes and you pick ‘em, pick 'em, pick 'em, pick 'em
And you smash ‘em, smash ‘em, smash ‘em
And you smear ‘em, smear ‘em, smear ‘em (peanut, peanut butter and jelly)
The you get some bread to make a sandwich
And then you bite it. You bite it. Bite it. Bite it.
And then you chew it. Chew it. Chew it.  Chew it (peanut, peanut butter and jelly)

After the song, make the sandwiches.   While eating the sandwiches, read a book to the children about it.  Perhaps Peanut Butter & Jelly. 

We think we’re just being silly;and all the while, the brain is learning scientific process.  Imagine that.   For other ideas for science songs, please visit :
Check out what's available at Songs for Teaching
Discovery Channel.  (This site does require a membership.)

Using music is a functional and necessary tool in the classroom.  It is getting more main stream acceptance.  A new show on TV has the lead star as a Music Teacher!  Yay!  Even better, this actor uses back beats/rhythm with music to help children learn.  I applaud the show because it displays how well music works in education.  We need more real life teachers doing this.  The number is growing.  Be a part of that number!

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