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Science Music Projects for PBL

Music and the Brain Podcasts
Music and the Brain Podcasts
A series of Music and the Brain podcasts from the Library of Congress can be an inspiration for science music PBL - project-based learning - lessons.  These podcasts focus on the study of neuroscience and music, specifically how music can alleviate depression and grief, improve memory retention, treat illness, and even prevent crime.

The podcasts brought me back to my first teaching experience.  I first started teaching as a substitute at two neighboring elementary schools in a high-poverty area.  The schools were less than a mile apart and had the same demographic population.  But they had markedly different cultures.

Each morning at one school, students were corralled by teachers into the building and told to move quickly and quietly to their classrooms.  Infractions (and there were many) earned quick reprimands.

The other school started each morning with classical music playing outside the building and in the hallways and classrooms.  I relaxed and I could see the kids visibly relax as they entered the school.  There were no discipline problems in the hallways.

So I see how this emerging area of research in neuroscience and music lends itself to a variety of projects for students that could directly impact them in school.  Students could answer questions such as:

  • Can music in the hallways decrease problems that occur there?  What kind of music?  
  • Can music help in the cafeteria as well?
  • Can music help improve the test scores of students who listen to it while studying?  What kind?
  • Is it beneficial in study hall? 
  • Are musical mnemonics effective in helping us memorize stuff?

The students would begin their research by reading previous studies, learning the significant qualities of music involved in research, talking to experts in the field, then constructing their own experiments.  The end product could be a presentation to the school administration, or even school board, of the results of their research, and a recommendation as to whether or not to use music in school, or as a study aid.  

Or students could videotape musical mnemonics for important information and post them to the school website or YouTube.  See my Squidoo post on Memorizing Techniques Using Music for some examples.

For conducting introductory research, try using, Sweet Search, a search engine designed for K-12 students.  For other research sources, look at Online References.  For constructing your PBL plan, I (once again) highly recommend West Virginia Dept of Education's PBL Tools, which include an excellent template.

A theme throughout the Music and the Brain  podcasts is how young people who were musicians, later gravitated toward medical careers in college.  They found a way to mesh their love of music with medicine and medical research.  What an inspiration for high school students setting out on a career path.

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