Remembering Photosynthesis Through Rap

By Communications Specialist, Grades 9-12, Maegan Azpiazu

Photosynthesis is a pretty standard lesson taught in high school biology classes. But Prep biology faculty member Mr. Alan Piggot took a very non-standard approach to teaching it.

"This semester, I assigned my students to work in groups to make some sort of multimedia presentation on photosynthesis," Piggot said. "A rap video that a college student in Atlanta named Julien Turner made on cell division as extra credit for a biology class was the inspiration; the video was going viral and my students went crazy when I showed it in class. So, I asked them if they wanted to attempt their own raps in place of a test for a summary of photosynthesis."

Enter this freshman trio: the brain, Sophia Marshall '21; the creator, Sadie Goldstein '21; and the editor, Paulina Posada '21. They couldn't wait to get started, and after working through some bumps in the road – and up until the very last minute – turned in this catchy rap video.

"We played around with a bunch of different beats," said Paulina, who edited the final cut of their assignment with the help of her brother, Jorge Posada '18. "Sadie would come up with lyrics, and I would write them down, but then the next class we would hate what we had and start over. We had requirements we needed to include – like vocab words – and at first, only Sophia knew what anything meant. She's the brain of the group."

The night before the assignment was due to be presented in class, the trio went to Paulina's house – still without a beat to record on. After working through countless variations and vetting at least 10 songs, they found a winner and started incorporating the assignment's bullet points into a rap.

"Certain words don't fit into a rap, so I would have to add things," said Sadie, an aspiring musician. "So, for the line 'A monomer is just way more lame,' a monomer and a polymer are made the same but a monomer is made of many polymers, so that's where I came up with that. I don't know how it happened, but the song has a chorus, a bridge and everything."

Out-of-the-box assignments like Mr. Piggot's combine classical, traditional teaching and learning methods with progressive and innovative techniques. This allows students to practice important 21st century learning skills such as critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, while also absorbing key information, maybe even more so than with a typical essay or exam.

"I actually learned things about photosynthesis with this assignment," said Sophia, who has been in school at Gulliver with Paulina and Sadie since sixth grade. "It stuck more, and it also took me out of my comfort zone. If I were doing this alone I probably wouldn't have done it as well. It was a fun assignment."