What might a song have to do with science? A lot…when you’re a sixth grade science learner asking: What can we learn about science and culture through listening to music? Especially if, as their science teacher noted, students are using the right lens.
Students tackled the query as analytically as possible in their study of the songs on the science-themed children’s album, Here Comes Science by the band They Might Be Giants. They analyzed song lyrics, made hypotheses about the meanings backed up with evidence from songs, and recorded observations in journals.
While this musical inquiry is distinct from the sixth grade science curriculum, students easily connected song themes to the science topics they also were studying including astronomy and the formation of the solar system, the work of Thomas Edison, the pros and cons of electric cars, the fundamental properties of fire, the dreaming mind, and even synapomorphies shared by all mammals.
To share their learning with our community, students performed two of the songs they had analyzed at all-school assemblies. Students arranged the music to reflect their musical strengths and lyrics included their thoughts on the connections between the song and what they were learning in science.
For the song “Why Does the Sun Shine,” for example, student included this rap Q & A:
Q: What does this song tell us about scientific discovery?
A: “It tells me theories change all the time.
A: “This song tells us new discoveries can change everything.
A: “It tells us that in science, theories are rarely concrete and are constantly being updated.”
Later, in a reference to the song “Particle Man,” students answered with one-word summaries: “School” “Science” “Life” “Repetition” “Difference” and “Diverse.”
One question, though, might remain unanswered : Is it musical fun with science or scientific fun with music?