Making Sense of Science: The Sounds of Teaching and Studenting in Four Urban Classrooms will be on view March 17 – June 24, 2012, in the Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation Galleries at the Akron Art Museum. An opening reception will be held on March 17 from 2 – 4 pm.
This exhibition is the result of an ongoing study in four classrooms in the Akron Public School District conducted by Professor Walter S. Gershon of Kent State University. Now in its fourth and final year, it was conceived in response to national concerns about disparities in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education and science professions for girls, women and people of color.
Gershon designed the study to explore how writing songs about academic content helps bridge race and gender gaps in science education for young urban students. As a result, it has demonstrated that the process of songwriting can effectively engage students in science content, help early readers and writers express their knowledge, serve as a curricular tool for literacy and scientific inquiry and create a context in which students of all ages can experience what it feels like to be lost in ideas and the creation of meaning.
In addition to students’ songs, the study captured the sounds of students working on songs, reflections about the process, student and teacher interviews and the sounds of science lessons. These sounds represent the depth and diversity of what students and teachers do on a daily basis in classrooms.
The exhibition is a unique presentation of Gershon’s research in a methodology he calls sonic ethnography. Each pair of speakers represents a classroom at Portage Path Community Learning Center, Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts and Roswell Kent Middle School over 17 months.
The recordings play simultaneously so the listener can experience the depth and breadth of this project and how ideas resonate throughout the school district. It also demonstrates how city kids and teachers engage with scientific content in knowledgeable and sophisticated ways. These sounds indicate the positive impact of providing students with space to construct meaning on their own and with one another.
Listening to kids sounding off about science—hearing the ways they work together, the scientific knowledge they convey and their thoughts about their processes—is both an enjoyable experience and an invitation to think critically about conversations that question urban students’ potential and comprehension in science.
This project was made possible through support from the OMNOVA Foundation, Audio-Technica, Apogee Digital and Tannoy and Service Learning at Hudson High School.
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