Walter Smith teaches physics at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. He has a unique approach. He’s made up songs about Einstein, oscillation, and other science topics and he sings them in the classroom.
He greets his students with song right on the first day. Most of the students aren’t sure what to think. They don’t expect their science teachers to serenade them. And, science isn’t the first thing you’d think of when you think of music.
Smith has quite a repertoire. Some songs are the result of a collaboration with his wife, other songs come from satirists and other teachers. His own compositions include such hits as “Divine Einstein”, “Love Song of the Electric Field”, and “The Photon and the Wave”.
Smith is liked and respected by his students. Although his methods are unconventional, they bring results. If you’ve gotten a song stuck in your head, then you know that music would be an excellent complement to any curriculum. It may be difficult to remember facts, but the words to a song well memorized usually come quite easily. Since alot of learning is repetition, why not set it to song to make it easier?
Smith isn’t the only science teacher using this method. James Livingston at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has also composed songs and poems related to science. Livingston uses the songs to complement curriculum, but he does not sing them.
Smith has a website dedicated to his musical compositions as well as songs contributed by others. The website includes a song database and information on how to use the songs with course material. You can visit his website at this address: Physics Songs
[Photograph credit: Joerg Loehnig, www.sxc.hu]