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Sing-Along Science May Boost Learning

Science is hard. Especially for school children learning advanced concepts. But a little theme music and a singalong or two could make absorbing scientific concepts less of a cognitive burden — that’s the conclusion of researchers at the University of Washington.

Researchers Katie Davis and Greg Crowther recently looked into how use of music videos in the classroom might help some kids better understand scientific concepts.

Almost everyone under 35 years old remembers the Animaniacs song about America’s 50 State capitals. The UW researchers think a similar approach could help kids learn about biology, physics and chemistry.

“It makes sense that we shouldn’t teach all kids in the same way; we should individualize,” explained Davis, an assistant professor at Washington’s Information School. “We need to provide multiple entry points in all subject matters. Music is a different entry point into scientific concepts.”

Davis and Crowther — who will present their research at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference on Friday — aren’t just talking about music as a pneumonic device. They’re talking about music as a sensory enhancer. Previous research has shown music to help reduce stress and anxiety, which may help explain its ability to aid in knowledge absorption.

The researchers came to their conclusion after finding that an information-filled music video (seen at the top this story) helped students improve quiz scores and understanding of advanced concepts.

“There wasn’t a teacher breathing down students’ necks telling them they had to learn this for a test,” Crowther explained. “People voluntarily watched these videos for fun. This is exactly the type of opportunity we should be creating more of. Students will seek it out just because it’s fun and interesting.”

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