Singing Science at Malmsbury

One of the key aspects of memory for oral cultures is that they sing their knowledge. Songs are far more memorable than prose. We are testing out the ways we can use music as a learning tool across the curriculum. Malmsbury Primary School Principal, Carolyn Tavener, has asked that we concentrate on the basic concepts, those on which all future teaching is built.

Everything got a song, no matter how little, it’s in the song – name of plant, birds, animal, country, people, everything got a song.

These are the words of Aboriginal woman Eileen McDinny (Yanyuwa) as quoted in John Bradley’s Singing saltwater country: journey to the songlines of Carpentaria, p. 29.

In the first week of term, all students had a science session introducing the concept of force, although taught at different levels.

The following week, I asked all students the same questions: “Remember doing force in science last week?” [they did] “What is force?” Of the 65 students present for the class, only two could state simply “a push or pull”. A few more did include the word “push”. Some mentioned gravity and others referred to the experiments they had done. Critically, they all enjoyed the class and thought that science was fun. A great outcome!

Many said force was to do with other people forcing you to do things, despite the question putting the definition in terms of their science lesson. Star Wars clearly has great influence, but as a physics teacher, I cannot relate “May the Force be with you!” to the concepts we are trying to teach.

The music teacher Joseph Bromely decided they would use music to embed “push or pull” in their memories so that every time they heard the word ‘force’ they would automatically think “push or pull”. He set the few words of his song to the tune of  ‘The Imperial March’ from The Empire Strikes Back. And he put it on YouTube. 

Click on the image to go to YouTube and hear the song.

The students sung the song at Assembly. They’ll sing it again in music this week. Then we’ll wait a bit and ask the same questions about the meaning of the word ‘force’. We have all their previous responses so we can compare the answers. I’ll update here when we have done so.

If students don’t understand the word ‘force’ in the context of science, every time it is used they are building on very shaky foundations. We believe that music is a way around this issue, but we need evidence.

Watch this space!

Lynne Kelly

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