0411ctt science music feature

They Might Be Giants, who will perform at the USA Science & Engineering Festival later this month, introduces you to the elements. Credit: ParticleMen on Youtube.

New research from the University of Washington suggests that when it comes to kids, music videos can boost science learning.

At a time when many governments, including the US and China, are looking to increase interest and proficiency in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), boosting science literacy is a priority. (A positive sign is increased recent STEM enrollment.) The US Department of Energy and National Renewable Energy Laboratory think science literacy is so important that they even recently hosted a session to advance learning tools and applications to stimulate energy literacy.

(One of our missions here at ACerS is to promote awareness of ceramic science—AcerS staffers and student members will be attending the USA Science & Engineering Festival later this month to spark some serious ceramic science learning.)

According to a university press release, “Previous research has shown that music can reduce stress and increase student engagement in the learning process, so the researchers theorized that music videos could help some students process and retain information better.”

The researchers rounded up mostly K-12 students and tested their comprehension of a variety of science topics before and after watching a science-themed music video. The results showed that two-thirds of the videos improved the number of correct answers the students provided on post-video quizzes.

The experiment indicates that elaborate videos are not necessary (although they may be more fun to watch), because the results were similar regardless if students were shown visually-rich videos or ones that simply displayed the lyrics.

“It makes sense that we shouldn’t teach all kids in the same way; we should individualize,” says researcher and professor Katie Davis. “We need to provide multiple entry points in all subject matters. Music is a different entry point into scientific concepts.”

However, the researchers did not test how well the videos educated students in comparison to more “standard” methods of text alone. Students may be able to regurgitate information immediately after exposure to the video, but how do videos compare to a paragraph of text? And, can videos improve information retention? Hopefully further research will give us some answers.

They Might Be Giants definitely knows the power of music and, perhaps surprisingly, the wonder of science. They even released a kid-friendly science album, Here Comes the Science, which features songs about the elements (see video above), planets, colors, evolution, and more.

I did a little searching on Youtube and found some excellent creative science music videos that tackle even complicated topics like dark matter—below are some of my faves. Do you know of any great science-themed music videos?