How to write a science rap or song?
What are the components of making a good science song or rap?
Julia Ravey asked Raven Baxter, a award winning science communicator who creates catchy science songs, how to make a science smash hit...
Music credit: Raven Baxter (Raven the Science Maven), "The Mole, The Dozen's Cousin", Oct 2021
Julia - Raven, you are an absolute pro when it comes to making science make sense and you do this using music. So what are the components of making a good science song or rap?
Raven - First and foremost, if you're looking to use music to communicate science, make sure that you're having fun because when you're excited about what you're talking about it's easier to get other people excited too. Then try to circle around a main idea. What is the main message that you want to communicate to your audience? Do you want them to learn everything about one thing or maybe just get some fun facts or maybe you just want to introduce them to some keywords and vocabulary that can get them on their way to enjoy doing their own research and understanding? Then I love getting people up and dancing so I tend to use really upbeat rap music or hip-hop and things that I want to dance to so that I know maybe someone else wants to dance to it as well. Then when you put all that together, you can make a song or you can even make a music video, like I tend to do. I especially love when people tell me that they use my songs to study for exams, that just warms my heart and I feel like the songs definitely serve their purpose.
Julia - Music is such an accessible tool that can make the science you're communicating reach many ears, but we get many people writing in to us about how to talk about science with people who don't really want to listen. What are your top tips for broaching these types of conversations?
Raven - In the classroom, I'm a student centred teacher and outside of the classroom, I'm like a community centred science communicator. When I have conversations about science or when I'm teaching science, my main goal is to have everything that's coming out of my mouth, be something that lends itself to building community and trust in science. What that means for me is I don't attack people when we have opposing ideals or opinions or worldviews. I want to learn about people around me just as much in a conversation about science as you do at the grocery store. I want to know, 'what's your background?' 'What do you believe in?' 'What's important to you?' 'What are your values?' Those are all important things to consider when you're talking to someone about anything, but especially science because you get to understand a little bit about how they may interpret your information. I always just encourage a two way dialogue. I think sometimes science gets a bad rep for being a one way communication sometimes where we have facts and we say the facts and that's it. But I think when we're having conversations, we have to remember it should always be two way. The last point is that people always think, 'the end goal of every conversation about science, where you're talking to someone who may not want to listen is to convince them that you're right.' That's not necessarily always the case going into a conversation where you are thinking that you have to convince someone or pressure someone to believe you isn't a good situation, especially when you're trying to build trust. Those are the things that I want people to know.