It’s Monday afternoon at Jamaica College (JC) and the integrated science lab is buzzing with life, despite a downpour outside.
It’s not class as usual at JC, one of 12 high schools participating in the JN Foundation’s Science Genius Jamaica project. The others are Glenmuir, Clan Carthy, Westwood, Spot Valley, Cedric Titus, Maud Mcleod, May Day, Holy Trinity, Godfrey Stewart and Clarendon College.
The boys’ attention is fixed on their peers performing lyrics about ‘Healthy Lifestyle’, ensuring they smoothly ‘ride’ the dancehall track being played by their teacher and facilitator, Georgia Rudolph Blake, from her laptop. A young man deejays:
“Vitamins in a di lettuce and tomato,
Carbohydrates from the yam and potato,
A no meat alone gi u protein you can check cheese
Calcium build strong bones and teeth
Proteins mek yuh abs tough like concrete…,”
Blake desperately tries to contain the eruption of ‘forwards’ – mimicked blank shots in the air. “What you hear makes you think, ‘but I haven’t taught that area yet?'” says Blake. The boys put their lyrics together in 10 to 15 minutes after the teacher completes a topic.
“This is a new experience for me; and I believe it’s something we can incorporate in other subjects,” Blake said.
“Music is so infectious,” says dancehall DJ and mentor to the JN Foundation’s Science Genius Jamaica project, Tifa. “We simply want teachers to be open-minded,” she urged at the launch of the project in February.
Science Genius Project co-ordinator, the JN Foundation’s Chevanese Peters, said, “Our teachers are discovering the approach and they believe that dancehall and pop culture can in fact facilitate learning … . Some teachers may not be sure about the lyrics and beats and so on, but they are ready to meet the students where they are.
“What we are experiencing is a ripple effect, in which students are teaching themselves and teaching others; and they are being influenced to do the research.”
The project’s mentors, dancehall artistes Tifa and Wayne Marshall, are also assisting students to place what they are learning in a serious context, Peters explained.
“We really want to ensure that students are grasping and understanding the scientific concepts that are being taught,” she said.
In June, Science Genius Jamaica will move into its competition phase, as the schools engage in lyrical clashes in a series of BATTLES (Bringing Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science).