Rock Your Science Lessons with TMBG

Nov 10, 2010 by

It’s an unseasonably warm day here in lower Michigan (68 degrees Fahrenheit!), and that got me thinking about weather, climate, the sun, and ultimately this clever, cute rock and roll lesson on the sun, as performed by They Might Be Giants:

It’s not exactly the most authoritative resource for learning about the sun, and some of the concepts are flawed, but I’ve always been a sucker for findings creative ways to present concepts that fall outside of students’ tangible grasp. As far as I’m concerned, the sun is about as intangible as it gets when you’re talking science; something so far away, so old, and so unbelievably hot that it’s almost easier to just say it’s a giant ball of fire far away in space. Which of course, gets scientists, and science teachers riled up as being ridiculously inaccurate, so They Might Be Giants wrote, produced, and performed a NEW song for the sun that actually describes it in a much more scientific way:

Personally, I prefer the first movie….because it has a better tune. However, having recently reaped the benefits of a helpful Economics teacher at my high school that informed me I was building a learning activity around the concept of opportunity cost in such a way that I was entirely wrong, I see something more important at work here.

The participatory culture that YouTube, social media, and other “web 2.0” communities have cultivated means that inaccuracies, misconceptions, and outright untruths usually get called out quickly, often times by experts in particular fields. In this case, TMBG had the resources (they are a fairly successful rock group, especially with the Mickey Mouse Club House age group) to rapidly create an updated version of the song, even poking fun at the old version of the “edu-tune.”

This could be a creative and interesting way to have your students demonstrate their understanding of a scientific concept, “make a video for your final grade guys”, and see just how carefully they balance creativity, authenticity, and accuracy. Or, it could just be a fun video to use in your class, embed on your teacher page, and keep around to help your students explore concepts in an interesting way.

Oh, and for those wondering, this isn’t by any means the first example of catchy tunes from the entertainment world creeping into the classroom:

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3 Comments

  1. I love this collection. I’ve used it with my physics students. The tunes really get stuck in your head though.

  2. I used to play “why does the sun shine” for my ninth grade students nearly 20 years ago. Offering a dynamic entry point to a lesson outweighed inaccuracies. It’s not as if we used it as our authoritative reference when we went in depth.

    The song itself is a cover of a 50’s tune. You may have read this article: http://tmbw.net/wiki/Why_Does_The_Sun_Shine%3F

    Another goodie: “Mammal”

    • That’s awesome, I had no idea it was a cover of an old song. I had written before about the St. Joseph’s Aspirin remake of the Happy Days song, “Pumps Your Blood”; it’s interesting how tings get recycled 🙂

      Thanks for the article, I’ll have to poor through it soon.

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