I was just sent a charming CD to review — an album of music for elementary and middle-school age kids about science by children’s songster Monty Harper. This is an interesting album because it’s not just about the standard stuff — stars, rockets, DNA, dinosaurs (well, there is a dinosaur on there) but his songs are actually inspired by the work of current scientists, like work on pest-resistant wheat, or bacterial biofilms. That’s got a good side and a bad side — the good side is that the album is really true to what science really is, in a way that most kids’ albums aren’t. It’s not just about the cool/wow factor, but the strong, pervasive theme is that scientists are curious about the world, trying to figure things out, and solving real problems. “Science frontier” is an apt name — Monty is trying to get across that science is a living, breathing, evolving thing, with plenty of questions left unanswered. I particularly liked the song “Ain’t it Beautiful”, about how farmers work with nature to grow crops, and scientists work with farmers to feed the earth. But my real favorite was “Super Scientist” (and thank you, Monty, for making the ‘super scientist’ a “she”!) — the image of scientists as curious and devoted and working to improve the world is welcome — and much more inspirational for young folk than the standard “hey, cool” factor that is often played up.
But I did say there was a downside to focusing on cutting-edge research, and the downside is that there is quite a bit of vocabulary in the songs that is beyond the level of kids of the age level to which this album seems pitched. There is a bit of a mismatch in terms of the down-to-earth, fun tone and the use of high-falutin’ words like ‘microscopy.’ I imagine the aim was to make kids curious to look up the words and learn something more, which I hope would be the case, but I wasn’t sure why the vocabulary was necessary all the time. Couldn’t some of it have been described with metaphors or analogies rather than jargon?
But, really, that’s my only beef with the album. It’s cute and fun. If any other bloggers would like to review it, I’m sure Monty would be happy to send you a CD.
Oh, and here’s a cute picture of him. Sorry, other geekgirls — he’s cute, but judging from one of the names on the album, I think he’s taken.
Monty’s website: http://montyharper.com
The CD itself is on CD Baby