Remember Schoolhouse Rock!? Meet Flocabulary, a program that teaches science, Shakespeare, SAT words and ancient civilization through hip-hop.
The music, developed by producers who have worked with Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige, is the reason students take it seriously -- it's used in more than 10,000 schools.The idea for Flocabulary came when Blake Harrison, co-founder and creative director, had to look up words used by hip-hop virtuoso Talib Kweli, known for his erudite lyricism. This inspired Harrison to come up with a program that would teach the vocabulary needed for the dreaded SATs. (While I had to shuffle a gigantic stack of flashcards, students today can pop in a Flocabulary CD to absorb the meaning of scenes from Shakespeare's The Tempest, as performed by rappers.) "Flocab" also publishes books, such as a Hip Hop History of the World Part 1: From the Dawn of Civilization through the Renaissance. The accompanying CD includes songs like Party at the Parthenon and You Need a Renaissance. From the CD, check out these lyrics on feudal Japan:
I woke up this morning in feudal Japan,
The guest of the shogun, that dude was the man.
And even though the Emperor ruled the land,
Sometimes the shogun bows down to no one,
That makes him the guy to know,
Elected by the daimyo.
To learn more about Flocabulary and how to bring it into classrooms -- or why you should buy their books and music for yourself (The Rapper's Handbook teaches breathing techniques, to use at your next presentation, that Snoop Dogg uses) -- watch this video interview with Harrison and Flocabulary C.E.O. and co-founder Alex Rappaport on Walletpop's Big News Podcast. Think your public school doesn't have funding for this program? Think again:
Flocabulary: The new Schoolhouse Rock