Sonntag, 29. Juli 2007

The Insight Zone: Part II

his is the last 7 minutes of Jefferson High School's 1993 dramatization of how sheltered instruction can help improve education. Listen as the students themselves explain why they are failing their classes and why traditional textbooks and teaching methods fail the students, discriminating against anybody who does not come from a privileged background. In effect, we learn that schools teach those who already know and fail those who need to be taught.

The Insight Zone: Part I

n 1993 "Sheltered Instruction" was introduced to Jefferson High School in South Central Los Angeles to facilitate learning by students whose reading and language skills were not commensurate with the materials or instruction available in the classroom. Mathematics teacher Bill Hoyst and Science teacher T.H. Culhane worked with former gang banger turned student video producer Evan Rivas to create this look at what proper sheltered instruction would be like if adopted by the school. In this video the students explain why they find it so hard to learn from the typical class room.

The Safety Test: Chapter Two

his second part to Jefferson High School's mid-1990's gore-fest vocational training video pulls out all the stops. With D.E.M.M.O. Productions' T.H. Culhane behind the camera we get a chance to see Harold Campbell playing himself, illustrating what can happen when students don't observe proper safety procedures. Here class valedictorian Edgar Gutierrez costs Anna her finger by wandering into the safety zone of power machinery. We then see Anna lose rip off her thumb instead of ripping woodstock. A series of other accidents top off the video, edited by the students to some of their favorite rap tracks. Who would have thought preparing for the safety test could be so much fun! Makes you want to go back to high school... or not!

The Safety Test: Chapter One

The hazards of working with the Circular Saw, Disk Grinder and Drill Press are graphically illustrated in this first part of the Los Angeles Unified School District's bloodiest video production from the early 1990's. Created by T.H. Culhane, Harold Campbell and the students of Jefferson High School's D.E.M.M.O. Productions (Digital Engineering for Multi-Media Occupations) Program.

The Safety Test: Musical Intro

Every student in the vocational education training program at Jefferson High School in South Central L.A. in the mid-1990s had to suffer through a paper/pencil "safety test" before being allowed to start the training program. Ostensibly this was to prove they had internalized the textbook instruction about safety that would prevent accidents and save their lives. The reality was that the text book materials and the test were so poorly written and illustrated and so hard for the kids to relate to or understand that most failed the exam over and over and never got a chance to get even a laborer's education. And you wonder why there are so many jobless unskilled workers in America!
Instead of teaching our students to simply learn to repeat "Would you like fries with that?" Multi-media science instructor T.H. Culhane and woodshop instructor Harold Campbell (a thirty year veteran teacher and winner of the Harold Bunche award) decided to use the power of video to make the safety test more comprehensible. This playful, if bloody and graphic video, was the result! (more)

Pep Boyz in the 'Hood

In the mid-1990s Pep Boys awarded science and vocational instructors T.H. Culhane, Harold Campbell and Mr. Aguilar a $3000 autoparts grant so they could work on building a hovercraft and convert a truck to run on ethanol fuel as part of the federal Perkins program to integrate academic and vocational instruction in imaginative ways. To thank the Pep Boys, who also employed many of our students from Jefferson High School, the kids put together this little video with a song Culhane had composed as the soundtrack.

The Peristalsis Revue

In 1993, Harvard buddy Adam Button joined T.H. Culhane (author of this song) and rapper Robert Jones along with some students from Jefferson High School and Crenshaw High School in south Central L.A. when they went into the Beverly Hills Community Access TV studio to record this fun look at a chapter in the biology textbook on the Digestive System.

It was another of Melodic-Mnemonics' attempts to bring a boring school textbook to life using blue screen technology.

Adam Button was co-singer in "The Quintessentials", an L.A. based accapella singing group made up of Harvard grads T.H. Culhane and Paul Sagawa of the Harvard Krokodiloes, Paul Leher of the Harvard Glee Club and Adam Button of the Harvard Water Polo team (!) along with Princeton grads Jason Matthews and John Blazer of the Princeton Nassoons. Jason went on to record T.H. Culhane's song "The Peristalsis Revue" with his accapella group at Columbia medical school.

The Challenge: NASA's Challenger 7 Teaching Fellows

In the late 1980's The Challenger Center for Space Science Education and McGraw Hill awarded 7 teachers from around the United States as innovators, improving American Education, following the mission of Christa McAuliffe and her fellow astronauts. T.H. Culhane, then teaching at Crenshaw High School in "The 'Hood" (1989-1991), was one of the recipients of the award. When he became a mentor teacher for Teach For America he and his students and mentees created this video to celebrate the Challenger Center program. The video was produced by and features teachers T.H. Culhane, Dr. Sherry Kerr and students Robert Jones and Kofi Narty, along with teacher trainees in the "Teach for America" program at USC, where T.H. and Dr. Kerr were mentor instructors.

LEARN - UCLA's Advanced Management Program for Educational Reform

UCLA's Advanced Management Program (AMP) for L.E.A.R.N. teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District is shown in this music video

Labor of Love: The Reproduction Rap

Student Robert Jones created the rap he does here to get an A in T.H. Culhane's biology class at Crenshaw High School in 1991.

Solar South Central

Al Silva Hernandez and T.H. Culhane produced this little advert in Al's Solar South Central photovoltaic powered production studio in the 'hood in Los Angeles near Jefferson High School. It shows efforts we made in the "ghetto" to address environmental justice issues, working with Mundo Iximche, a transnational (Guatemala, Mexico, California) NGO formed by Angel Orozco, Jill Sourial, Kay Gilbert, Jennifer Ito and T.H. Culhane when they were Urban Planning students at UCLA.

It's All Genetics

Paul Sagawa of Harvard Krokodiloes fame stars as Gregor Mendel in this "melodic-mnemonics science education through music video" from the early 1990s in which we tried to literally "bring the textbook to life". Sagawa also plays the saxophone throughout the track. Dr. Sherry Kerr cameos as Charles Darwin's pious wife -- Darwin was played by a substitute teacher at Jefferson High -- while biology teachers Todd Ullah and colleague play Watson and Crick. T.H. Culhane plays Alfred Russel Wallace while his beloved Harvard Professor E.O. Wilson is represented by photographs. The idea was to take images from the standard biology textbook and, using early blue screen technology available at the Beverly Hills Community Access Television station, superimpose the teachers playing the historical characters over the images from the book to tell the story of how evolution, genetics and sociobiology have transformed our view of the world. The audio was recorded on a little Tascam 4 track cassette recorder. Nobody involved in the production was a professional; we did our best to demonstrate what a small group of inspired inner city school teachers and their students could do to enliven the lesson and "bring biology to life".*

* Talk about redundancy! "Enliven" "bring to life" and "biology" -- but perhaps we need to "kick a dead horse" to get people to realize that science is the most lively subject and that it is a crime if students are turned off to science because of poorly designed and delivered materials. If we live in an age of recidivism and superstition in which people are turning away from science and enlightenment and toward the dark ages of demagoguery, blame the school systems and their atrocious choices of teachers, pedagogical methods, slavish devotion to "standards" and "exams" and their use of horrible books and materials.

Samstag, 28. Juli 2007

Impact II: The Network of the Teachers

Immune System

The Heterotrophic Blues

"Heterotroph Shmeterotroph" declares the Crenshaw High School student to his father, "I'm not going to learn this stuff anyway. Might as well kick it and watch MTV". Thus starts this zany little music video in which a kid finds he can learn all about "the heterotroph hypothesis" by watching "Elvis Parsley" sing a rockabilly lesson about how tough it is for those of us who depend on autotrophs for our daily bread. The video, made in 1990, features T.H. and his kids from the 'hood playing horns while Dr. Sherry Kerr's students from Beverly Vista Middle School in Beverly Hills play vegetables. Shot at Beverly Hills Television, this was a pioneering attempt to bring kids from the poor areas of L.A. together on a project with wealthy kids from Beverly Hills, and it occurred during a time of economic depression in L.A. that preceeded the L.A. riots. Because of our Melodic-Mnemonics program we were able to bring the communities together during the time of the worst violence and intolerance that followed.

Earthwatch Bug Holiday

One of the greatest delights I had as an inner city high school science teacher was being able to bring the outside world into the ghetto through video production. On this occasion, in 1993, I was fortunate to receive a Helen Bing Award for teaching that paid for me to go on an Earthwatch Expedition to study arthropods (spiders and insects) with Dr. Roger Kitching in Australia in the Lamington Park rainforest (near Brisbane). Kitching was using the technique of canopy misting shown in the film "Arachnophobia". Helen Bing, a patron of the arts, also graciously paid to bring me, educational reformer Dr. Sherry Kerr (who had also been on the Earthwatch expedition) and my students and fellow teachers into 7th Avenue Recording Studio (Rick Ballentine, engineer) down in the 'hood so we could record the song for the melodic-mnemonic video. She even came in to sing on the chorus with us all! Then the students took all the footage we shot in Australia and cut together the video, including a pre-song rap in which they talk about their desire to leave the inner city and see the rain forests. Magical! (more)

The Classification Rap

This is the Video that Started it All! In 1989 T.H. Culhane, a brand new science teacher at Crenshaw High School in South Central L.A., joined forces with video instructor Phil Kuretski and together with their students they created T.H.'s first "Melodic-Mnemonic" -- a rap song that successfully embedded the Linnean system of classification -- Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species -- using rap and melody as the carrier wave for the textbook data that students were expected to memorize. Culhane's "Melodic-Mnemonic" method worked so well that his "at-risk" students were able to successfully compete with "gifted students" and test scores went up on biology exams. For the next near decade Culhane expanded the subject matter he and his students covered using the Melodic-Mnemonic approach. Recently, Culhane has been using the approach with the U.S. State Department's Cultural Affairs program, teaching science workshops in schools in Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Morrocco, Israel and Palestine.

More History of Melodic-Mnemonics: At Harvard between 1980 and 1985, T.H. Culhane had the honor of taking classes on Evolutionary Biology with Professors Stephen Jay Gould and E.O. Wilson and Chemistry with Dudley Herschbach. Each of these legendary luminaries inspired in T.H. a love of the natural sciences and they taught him that science could be taught in an infectiously fun and engaging manner. E.O Wilson captured the attention of his students with an exciting narrative storytelling style that made each class an eye-opening adventure. Dudley Herschbach did explosive hands on experiments, told jokes and played Tom Lehrer's Chemistry song. Stephen Jay Gould performed songs about science that he sang with his barbershop quartet. To T.H. the message was clear: A Harvard Education in the sciences integrates all of the senses, all the modalities and engages every part of our brain and its multiple intelligences.

For his Senior Thesis with Professor Terry Deacon, T.H. not only videotaped and analyzed the vocalizations of the famous "Hoover, the Talking Seal" at the New England Aquarium, but he wrote a rap song called "A Talking Seal? Get Outta Here" that explained the essence of his thesis and made a music-video (edited by Steve Sessions, and recorded with John Axelrod and Michael Culhane) that was his first "melodic-mnemonic". The music video was shown to Dr. Lou Herman and his dolphin researching staff at the University of Hawaii when T.H. was on tour their with the Harvard Krokodiloes in the summer of 1985; Dr. Herman shared with T.H. the research he was doing on interspecies communication and agreed that music (and other forms of sound patterning) could aid in transcending barriers between foreign minds.

Without getting into the possibilities for using the Melodic-Mnemonic method to connect with "aliens" (although T.H. admits to being a fan of Stephen Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind) T.H. decided to take the pedagogical techniques he had learned and elaborated on at Harvard into the 'Hood, and see if he could use them successfully to communicate his love of science within communities of "illegal aliens" and disenfranchised, alienated youth. He noted that so called "at-risk" youth who couldn't memorize textbook material seemed to have no problem memorizing complicated rap or pop lyrics, and decided that both enthusiasm and the use of rhythm and music as carrier waves for syllabic sounds were the keys to assisting memorization of complex scientific topics.

He picked the topic of Classification for his first Melodic-Mnemonics video because he resented the fact that when he was in high school the only mnemonic devices available for memorizing the sequence "Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species" were even greater abstractions such as "Kooky Purple Carrots Often Farmers Grow Separately". "How on earth" (or any other planet for that matter!), Culhane reasoned, "is it easier to memorize that sequence, and then try and use it as an aid to remember the real sequence?" Culhane decided that any mnemonic that requires the memorization of even more arbitrary information is not a memory aid at all.

What you will see in this video is what every musician has known since Mozart composed Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and every child knows who sings the alphabet song: Music IS the best mnemonic device.

T.H. was aware that this idea had been used before in "SchoolHouse Rock" and Sesame Street -- what hadn't been done, was to apply these methods to high school science in general and to inner city schools in particular. And the biggest missing piece was involvement "of the students, by the students, for the students." Only by doing do we learn, and The Melodic-Mnemonic Method was all about getting the students to think critically, write, create and perform their material, bringing the "boring" text books to life.

Thus, in 1989, at Crenshaw Hight School in South Central Los Angeles, Melodic-Mnemonics was born.

The "Bored" of Education

Here, from 1990, during my first year teaching science at Crenshaw High School in South Central L.A., is a speech we wanted to deliver to the School Board, but we were never granted an audience to do so. So instead we made this video AS IF we were in front of a cheering audience of school officials, AS IF they welcomed the changes we were bringing to science education. It was really an attempt to try out a new sampler we had bought (on which we created the soundtrack) and this wretched little video camera. The classroom scenes were at Crenshaw; the auditorium was at Beverly Hills High. The only people in the audience, miming to the laugh track, are Sherry Kerr and Emily Keaty. 17 years later we can say with pride that at least some of the ideas we pioneered are being used in inner city schools around the world, so perhaps we succeeded!

Text of 1990 speech:

"Once upon a time, school was boring.  But that was before "Bio-Rhythms". Bio-Rhythms -- Science Education through Music Video. Feel the Beat!"

Thankyou, Thankyou, Thankyou Ladies and Gentleman, Thankyou.
Now who says school shouldn't be a three ring circus, huh?
You, ah, see anybody buying tickets to get into biology these days? (Laughter).

But all that is going to change and let me tell you why...
Over the past 40 years, ever since the advent of the electric guitar, the technologies of music and television production have changed the way we learn. There was simply no way that high school could compete.

"Now let's face facts folks, you would have rather been home watching T.V. and listening to the radio, right?

But today, the means of production have fallen into the hands of the masses. And that means that the same technology that the entertainment industry was using to "woo kids away from their studies" is now affordable by even the most poorly paid professionals in our country -- I'm referring to  the American Teacher.  (applause)

Today, with a little bit of creativity and enthusiasm,  the classroom can be turned into a production workshop, a place where students and teachers from every discipline can put their subject knowledge to use,  creating not busy work but a product that they can be proud of.

"Now I teach science in the inner city but our approach can be applied to all areas and all curricula, turning our children from idle consumers into active producers, having fun and learning at the same time.  That's what Bio-Rhythms is all about.

"All of our children are capable of creative genius.  The education problem isn't with them, the challenge is for us to teach them in the ways they learn best.

"Biorhythms -- isn't it time that all our children got turned on to science?"


You've heard of Blue Bloods? What about Blood Blues? This early melodic-mnemonic music video was broacast on BHTV October 31st, 1990. It was created by T.H. Culhane and the students of Crenshaw High School and co-produced by Crenshaw video instructor Philip Kuretski, and educational reformer Sherry Kerr, "Blood" is a blues song that takes place inside the heart and bloodstream where Dracula and a host of Zombies compete for the "hearts and minds" of students who are bored by biology class. A Halloween special for those who hate school!

ATP Reggae Sunsplash

Who on earth would write a song extolling the virtues of Adenosine Triphosphate? That wacky melodic-mnemonicist T.H. Culhane, of course. Since his time scatting with the Harvard Krokodiloes, when T.H. created a " Phocal" rap song for his Senior Thesis project called "Hoover: A Talking Seal? Get Outta Here!" T.H. has always been fascinated with the way polysyllabic scientific jargon lends itself to music. Melodic-Mnemonics was his way of making science fun in the inner city schools by putting a beat and a melody behind the textbook vocabulary to make it more... mnemonic!
This video was a summer celebration of the power of ATP, featuring a rock band from a high school in San Diego performing with teachers and kids from south central L.A., Beverly Hills High (where it was filmed) and a dancing gorilla... all powered by the conversion of ATP back to Adenosine DiPhosphate. Created in 1990 on 3/4 inch tape with primitive pixillated CG and recorded on a TASCAM four track cassette recorder, its lack of production value should not get in the way of taking home the message of the importance of the mitochondrial powerhouse that makes all life possible. Enjoy!

Freitag, 27. Juli 2007

Reform School

Here's a fun music video we as faculty and students put together at Jefferson High School in South Central Los Angeles back in the very early 1990's, right after the Los Angeles "riots" ("uprising"). We got the principal, Phil Saldivar, and the vice principals Merle Price and Roselyn Weeks, to rap about school reform alongside the teachers and students. 30 year Teaching Veteran and Woodshop Instructor Harold Campbell and Biology teacher Todd Ullah were particularly instrumental in the creation of these videos and reform school projects and can be seen rapping alongside their students in this MTV style look at school reform.

Composed by T.H. Culhane and edited by the students of D.E.M.M.O. Productions (Digital Engineering for Multi-Media Occupations), "Reform School" expressed the optimism that "we can reform school, yeah yeah!" at a time when many of us thought the school system was partially to blame for the despair we find in our inner cities.

Melodic-Mnemonics: Science Education through Music and Video

"Melodic-Mnemonics" is a method I created in the inner-city schools in South Central Los Angeles in 1989 when working as a science teacher at Crenshaw High School, the school featured in the Ice Cube movie "Boyz in the Hood". I took the method in 1991 to Jefferson High School near Central Ave and 41st street (the neighborhood featured in the film "Devil in a Blue Dress") and built a program there called "D.E.M.M.O. Productions - Digital Engineering for Multimedia Occupations". Later, in 1995, while attending the Musician's Institute of Technology, I tranferred the program to Hollywood High School's program for at risk youth.

The three television specials reproduced here - KCOP's "Sprocket Science" produced by former CIA agent Frank Snepp, CBS's "How'd They Do That", and NBC's "Save Our Streets", illustrate the evolution of the program and the media attention that we got.

1990: Sprocket Science (KCOP Television, Frank Snepp, Producer)

1992: How'd They Do That (CBS Television)

1994: Save Our Streets (NBC Television, Ashley Rogers, Producer)