A compilation of random and interesting things, musings, musics, videos, and more. Brought to you by a UChicago student with a penchant for procrastination.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Edu-tastic Video Compilation

Even now, after having graduated from high school, I have to admit - it really is difficult for me to separate myself from the educational fun-ride that was k-12. Everywhere I look, it seems, I find benchmarks of my educational upbringing, from French dictionaries gathering dust on my bookshelf to one random elementary school spelling book that I should've definitely returned about nine years ago. It's been fun to rummage through old grade reports, laughing at awkward class photos, and sympathizing with elementary school teachers who racked their brains to try and impart some form of factual information to us.

Seriously though, an 'A' for all those spelling mistakes and random capitalizations? I would've deported myself outright for pledging 'alligance' to a 'republik' run by a lesser 'god' than He who directs the thoughts and actions of his progeny George W. Bush

Yet the internet has been the ultimate harbinger of memories connected to those nostalgic years - with the ability to simply Google old PBS educational shows I've been able to find countless reminders of the clever ways in which adults choose to inundate children with massive amounts of facts. And while giant purple dinosaurs perhaps are better suited for giving children an irrational phobia, one reoccurring technique has definitely stuck out for it's practicality - songs.

Since the dawn of time, it seems, as long as there have been core factual concepts (mathematics, science, history, language) people have always attempted to commit their base principles to memory through simple and repetitive forms. Things like mnemonic devices (SOH CAH TOA, Roy G. Biv, My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas*), rhymes, sayings, and songs have attempted to make the chore of pure repetition more mentally expedient. Sure, simply memorizing things through rote repetition is a staple hallmark of childhood (from reciting prayers or the pledge) -- yet songs have always added that extra bit of excitement that could trick entice a hyperactive child into doing some inadvertent learning.

But returning to the point, I don't think any s
ort of nostalgic post about the magic of song in education could be complete without a rundown of the very songs which permeate my subconscious mind, making me a slave to catchy jingles and quickly recited bits of information. Below is a compilation of the videos which I consider to have the most creative and powerful use of song to achieve that perfect jingle to fact ratio.

Ah, the Animaniacs - with their take on the nations of the world who could go wrong? Although, they did misspell Israel as 'Isreal' -- but I'll give Yakko a break, for a singing whatever-the-hell-it-is that's still pretty good.

School House Rock made my One Saturday Mornings notable (next to Doug, Recess, and Pepper Ann) -- and as far as this integration of the bill-making process to song I'd say it definitely has raised my political efficacy ... what person doesn't still secretly wish that the next bill passed could befriend them and after breaking out into song do a Kool-Aid man sort of "oh-yeah!" cheer?

Sesame Street always had tons of innovative clips presenting letters, colors, and numbers - so what better way to convey the concept of '6' than with a psychedelic pinball machine countdown?

Ok, this isn't necessarily an aide for conventional knowledge - but it sure did work for brainwashing me into being aware of the dangers that evil villains pose to the environment. But man, captain planet was a tad creepy himself, at least the cute South American boy with the pet monkey made up for it. We're the planeteers, you can be one too - cause saving our planet is the thing to do!

While I couldn't find an embed-able version of this next one, the Periodic Table of the Elements song by Tom Lehrer has been a standard for Chemistry teachers across the nation since 1955. If you've never encountered this song in class then you've missed a chemistry hot-topic that's almost as fascinating as the idea of the mole (Avogadro's number, equal to 6.022 x 1023 atoms or molecules). You can however find a flash version of an animation done to the song at privatehand.com/flash/elements.html

And a treat, perfect for Pi Day! An amazing parody of all of the above, with the perfect dose of humor tossed in -- no Steve, not Pie, Pi (and in case you were hungry for that pi goodness, or just insane, you can find pi calculated to a million digits at piday.org)

* Note: seeing as Pluto has been demoted to the status of a dwarf plant (or trans-Neptunian object) alongside Ceres and 2003 UB313 as of August 24, 2006 ... I guess elementary school kids can go with something like My Very Educated Mother Just Said Uh-oh No Pluto (here's a visual).

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