Learning Science Through Music

Learning Science Through MusicWhen G2 was little, we did a lot of learning through music videos:

It was fun and the boys enjoyed the music. I don’t know how much of it they absorbed but G2 would often comment about things he saw in the music videos long after we had stopped watching them. I, on the other hand, wondered why we never learned used music to learn stuff like mitosis and the Kreb’s cycle because it seemed so much easier to remember them this way.

As it turns out, there is a new study indicating that students can learn serious science through music videos.

Leveraging the power of music to improve science education

Gregory Crowther, Tom McFadden, Jean Fleming and Katie Davis
International Journal of Science Education
Published by Taylor & Francis

In the study, over 1,000 students participated in a three-part experiment that compared learners’ understanding and engagement in response to 24 musical and non-musical science videos. Here’s what they found:

  1. Across ages and genders, K-16 students who viewed music videos improved their scores on quizzes about content covered in the videos
  2. Students preferred music videos to non-musical videos covering equivalent content.  Additionally, the results hinted that videos with music might lead to superior long-term retention of the content.

“We tested most of these students outside of their normal classrooms. The students were not forced by their teachers to watch these videos, and they didn’t have the spectre of a low course grade hanging over their heads.  Yet they clearly absorbed important information, which highlights the great potential of music to deliver key content in an appealing package.” – Greg Crowther, Ph.D., a lecturer at the University of Washington.

The findings of this study have implications for teacher practitioners, policy-makers and researchers who are looking for innovative ways to improve science education.

How Music Helps

  • It enhances recall – using music to learn information is similar to using memory tactics to help with recall.
  • It reduces stress – stress affects learning therefore anything that reduces it should improve learning.
  • It incorporates multi-modal delivery of information which appeal to different learning styles.
  • It increases enjoyment – children learn better when they’re having fun.
  • It provides in-depth exploration of content – this is especially so if children have to make up their own science songs.

“Tom and I, along with many others, write songs for and with our students, and we’ve had a lot of fun doing that, but rather than just assuming that this works, we wanted to see whether we could document learning gains in an objective way.

Music will always be a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, more traditional forms of teaching, but teachers who want to connect with their students through music now have some additional data on their side.” – Greg Crowther

Resources for Learning Science Through Music

Study authors Crowther and McFadden both use songs to teach science at Nueva School in California and they already have quite an extensive collection available here:

And here are more songs that we’ve found recently: