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Lesson Plans

Science genius: creating a rhyme - Lesson Plan

April 11, 2013

Full Lesson


A rhyming/rap activity for educators and students created by Christopher Emdin and Timothy Jones of Columbia University and Thaisi Da Silva and Allison McCartney of PBS NewsHour Extra.


Music, Science, Arts & Culture, Technology


One class period plus an assignment


In an effort to engage students, legendary rapper GZA has teamed up with Columbia University Teachers College professor Christopher Emdin to use hip-hop to teach everything from biology to physics.

Lesson Overview

Students will watch the PBS NewsHour report “Songs in the Key of Biology: Students Write Hip-Hop to Learn Science” and have a discussion about using hip-hop music as a tool in the classroom.


Warm up questions:

  1. What keeps you engaged in the classroom?
  2. How do you learn best? What techniques do you have for retaining information?
  3. What do you think could be done in the classroom to make learning science more fun?

Discussion questions:

  1. What did you find most interesting about this video?
  2. Do you think you would learn well in this program? Why or why not?
  3. Do any of your classes use interdisciplinary techniques to teach you information? If so, how do you feel about them?

Next, students will watch GZA’s science rap:

After students have watched both videos, ask them to work independently and research a science topic they’d like to write a rap about.

Students will need a chorus or hook for the rap they will create. A chorus has been provided for them. This will also help acclimate students to the process of writing and performing his/her rap.

The Chorus

Sometimes in the world it is hard to dream

Based on realities my eyes have seen

Formulate rhymes from life as a thesis

This is what makes me a Science Genius

(Each line is 10 syllables which gives it a natural rhythm. Practicing this chorus, will help students construct their rhymes.)

Some/times/ in/ the/ world/ it/ is/ hard/ to/ dream

Based/ on/ re/a/li/ties/ my/ eyes/ have/ seen

For/mu/late/ rhymes/ from/ life/ as/ a/ the/sis

This/ is/ what/ makes/ me/ a/ Sci/ence/ Ge/nius

After students completed some research on a science topic, have them complete the following steps:

  1. Write down the first (8) words that come to mind. (These will most likely be science terms you have just learned.)
  2. After you have completed the first step, write down the first (5) words that come to mind when you think of each of the first (8) words.
  3. From you list of (40) words identify all the words that may rhyme and that you could use as “end words” in a rhyme sequence.
  4. Create sentences that connects the first (2) rhyming words.
  5. Create as as many of these rhyming sentences as possible.
  6. Review the rhyme when you have exhausted your rhyming words and begin to check for the following:
    • Sentence structure and flow (matching syllables in sentences like the example provided in the chorus
    • Coherence /logic in the sentences (how connected are they to the science topic you want to get across
    • Revise your work for clarity, coherence, and recite it to perfect performance
    • Begin getting creative by thinking of analogies and metaphors you can use to get your point across, different (more complex) or rhyme patterns you can use to develop the initial text
    • Revise the rap you have crafted
    • Continue the entire process till you create a rhyme you are comfortable with performing

Extended Activity: Create Your Own Science Rap

Enter your own science rap or hip-hop verse for a chance to win a PBS NewsHour mug signed by GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan along with a personal video shout-out from the rap legend himself.

How to submit a video:

  1. Create your science rap video according to the guidelines below and upload it to YouTube.
  2. Click here to submit your entry in the contest. (You must log in to your YouTube account.)
  3. Now, choose the video from your channel and submit it as a response to GZA’s YouTube video.
  4. Videos will be reviewed and approved before they become visible on the PBS NewsHour channel.
Competition guidelines:


  • Entries must incorporate at least one scientific topic/concept into 16 bars of verse. (16 bars is the length of a traditional verse, and a bar is made up of beats of four.)
  • The main topic/concept of the rap must be referenced in different ways at least three times in the verse.
  • Be creative in your expression of the science (E.g.: envision yourself either as somebody involved in the scientific process or an object undergoing the scientific process. Draw connections between your real world experiences and the concepts themselves.)
  • Information must be scientifically accurate and verifiable.
  • Lyrics must rhyme and incorporate metaphor/analogy.
  • Entries are due by Friday, May 3, 2013.

If you have questions about the contest or you are having trouble uploading a video, email science reporter Jenny Marder at