Writing Rhymes About Cell Membranes

I was never a big fan of science. Well, I actually liked it, but my grades didn’t always reflect that level of enjoyment, which eventually pushed me away from the subject. However, maybe a different, more creative approach could have pulled me back towards the microscopes. Christopher Emdin would’ve suggested that I rap. I think I might’ve tried it.

An assistant professor of science education at Teachers College, Columbia University, Emdin put together a rap competition this summer called Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. (Bring Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science). Young students from New York’s public schools were encouraged to write and perform their own original material; they had to hone their hip-hop skills to represent science. So, anything from the average amoeba to the neural impulse sequence was fair game. This year’s winner, Jabari Johnson, won with a performance titled “Quest for Joulery.” Warning: Science joke – I’m sure it was a high-energy display.

Complete with star judges and a big screen that showcased performers’ lyrical feats to the audience, Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. turned a lot of heads and changed a lot of minds. “Once [students] are able to incorporate the arts and their culture into the science content, they take it and they run with [it],” Emdin told National Public Radio. By finding a different vehicle for teaching, Emdin was able to infuse education into performance arts. It looked like everybody had lots of fun, too.

Check out NPR’s short documentary piece about Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. below.

What’s the most creative thing you’ve done to engage your students?