Science Genius Jamaica: The revolutionary movement that’s mixing science with dancehall music

News > The Caribbean

By STEM Caribbean | Posted on June 27, 2020

Many of us can’t deny that we love jamming to our favourite tunes for an occasional booster. By now, we’ve probably memorised enough lyrics that could fit a book. Dr. Christopher Emdin, a professor at Columbia University in the United States, is taking advantage of this natural love for music to help students learn and explore the various wonders of science through songwriting. He pioneered the Science Genius challenge, which inspires students to learn by writing hip-pop songs about science.   

As a longtime advocate for implementing music into the learning process, Dr. Emdin has made strives to spark what is now considered a movement. He helped establish Science Genius Jamaica, by working alongside Dr. Renée Rattray, an education consultant and founder of TEACHGoodLEADGood.   

Science Genius provides a fun way for students to learn science and showcase their talents while developing an appreciation for their rich cultural heritage. The competition also fosters a learning environment that allows students to express themselves and experience personal and professional growth.  

In 2017, Dr. Emdin collaborated with JN Foundation Jamaica to host Science Genius Jamaica. That year, the challenge resulted in the production of upbeat, catchy dancehall songs about science by talented students across Jamaica. Jabeur Martinez from Cedric Titus High won the solo category and May Day High won the group category of the competition.  

This year the Science Genius Jamaica competition is being held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The organisers have taken over social media with the support of prominent Jamaican artistes and individuals in the music industry.   

Artistes like Jesse Royal, Tifa, Wayne Marshall, Tanya Stephens, and Agent Sasco have voiced their support of this revolutionary movement. Judges of the competition include renowned producer Mikie Bennett.  

The 2020 challenge is open to teachers and primary and secondary school students. Prizes for winners include laptops and phones, and opportunities to professionally record songs. The deadline to submit recorded songs and videos is July 7.  

In one of the Instagram live discussions promoting the competition, Dr. Emdin expressed that he founded Science Genius because of the misconceptions society has of science.   

“Science has always been perceived as a subject that’s only for the best, the brightest, the most intellectual or academic,” he expressed.  

He further explained that society would often overlook individuals from certain communities who may not seem talented, but are extremely gifted in their own right. He also mentioned that he encountered youth who were skilled in memorising entire albums in less than 24 hours or were able to perform music with relative ease. He believes that such skills connote an underlying level of genius, which he sought to develop into something more.   

In the live video, the educator proudly acknowledged the impact of Science Genius thus far, highlighting the increase in graduation rates, attendance rates, and college admissions. He mentioned that since hip-hop had such an effect on the students who participated, and dancehall is considered the father of hip-hop, a similar competition could have the same impact on at-risk Jamaican youth who struggle with STEM-related subjects.  Hence the birth of Science Genius Jamaica. 

It is no secret that music boosts memory and could help us remember information more easily. Studies have shown the benefits of music over the years. One study at Balor University in the United States observed how the performance of college students could be improved despite lack of sleep. The study showed that listening to the same music while studying and sleeping on the night before a test could improve performance.   

Anyone who wishes to sponsor or participate in this fun-filled competition can follow the competition’s Instagram page for updates and more details. 

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