“The cranium connected to the vertebrae, the vertebrae connected to the scapula, the scapula connected to the sternum …” Microphone in hand, Alfredo Ayala sings a scientific rendering of the spiritual “Dry Bones.” Penned by Senn High School science teacher Hank Saberman, the song is aimed at helping students remember the parts of the human skeleton. Students in Saberman’s biology classes must perform the song solo while classmates play percussion. “They can even stand in the corner and hide, if that’s the only way they’ll sing,” he says wryly.
By linking difficult words to a catchy rhythm, Saberman says, his students create a built-in memory aid that has led to better performance on tests. Some even have written their own science songs, using rap rhythms. Saberman says that music can engage students who normally don’t like school. “Even a kid who’s a gang-banger could be a great rapper,” he notes.
Editor’s Note: Henry Saberman and the other teachers spotlighted on pages 7 and 10 created their integrated arts lessons as part of a summer program held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and at Gallery 37, a city-run arts workshop for youth. They were taught by local professors and artists.