The Gift Is Science, But Kids Love the Rapping | Teachers College Columbia University

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The Gift Is Science, But Kids Love the Rapping

TC Assistant Professor Christopher Emdin has teamed up with the rapper GZA, of the Wu-Tang Clan, to get students at 10 New York City high schools excited about physics, biology and chemistry.

Through a pilot program called Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S., students at the 10 schools compose rap lyrics about a science topic and submit them for judging by Emdin and GZA (whose rap alias is “The Genius”). The two were introduced by the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Science Genius B.A.T.T.L.E.S. kicked off at TC’s Cowin Conference Center in early December with contestants from the participating schools, all of which serve predominantly black and Latino students. Those groups constitute 70 percent of New York City’s public school population. Nationally, African-American high school seniors significantly trail their white counterparts in proficiency in science, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Students whose songs are judged the best will be able to record their compositions and have them posted on the popular site They will also get to spend a day with GZA.

“In many respects, these kids are geniuses waiting to be discovered,” Emdin wrote in a recent piece in The Huffington Post. “They are GZA in the 10th grade deciding to leave school, despite loving science, because hip-hop was more appealing. They can rediscover their academic genius and someday hold court with the most brilliant scientists of our time, as long as we look for the genius that’s within them.”

Published Wednesday, Jun. 26, 2013