August 12, 2010
In my early days of exploring the world of science songs, most of the songs I encountered seemed to be by middle-aged guitar-playing white guys who had rewritten the lyrics to songs that they had learned when they were younger.
This is not meant in any way as a criticism of middle-aged guitar-playing white guys, some of whom are quite talented! (And, for the record, I myself am a 37-year-old white guy, though not one who plays guitar.) But it does raise an important educational issue, namely, is the music of older generations the best "hook" for teaching the younger ones?
I think the answer is "it depends." There's a lot to be said for quality, and if what you do well is folk songs or Beatles parodies, then students may indeed appreciate those. However, I'm always intrigued when someone presents scientific content in a more contemporary musical format, and this week's featured song is an example of that. It is by Tom McFadden, an instructor of human biology at Stanford, and his colleague Derrick Davis. The song has been posted on YouTube for about a year and a half and has racked up 130,000 views as well as an endorsement by the TierneyLab blog.