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Wu-Tang Clan's GZA to help teach science with hip-hop

 Rap icon GZA is teaming up with Columbia University professor Christopher Emdin to launch a pilot project they hope could boost interest in the sciences among urban youth. (Fergus McDonald/Getty Images)Science classrooms in New York City's public schools are failing to engage many students according to the New York Times, particularly those of African-American and Latino descent, who together make up 70 per cent of the city's student body.

Enter the Wu-Tang.

GZA, born Gary Grice, is a founding member of the revolutionary Staten Island rap crew the Wu-Tang Clan. He's also in the process of writing a solo album inspired by the quantum world with the help of physicists at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Earlier this year, GZA met Columbia University professor Christopher Emdin during a radio show at the Hayden Planetarium in New York. Emdin is an award winning educator, longtime hip-hop fan and author of a book called "Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation."

The two began discussing similarities between the skills required for success in rap and in science, such as curiosity, the ability to draw connections and keen observational abilities.

A idea was born, and eventually brought to fruition.

 Christopher Emdin is an award winning educator and longtime hip-hop fan who believes that culturally relevant teaching methods will help students learn and become interested in science. (YouTube / Chris Emdin)

In January 2013, 10 schools will be participating in a pilot project supported by Dr. Emdin and his graduate students in collaboration with GZA and the popular hip-hop lyrics website

Classrooms will be experimenting with hip-hop cyphers to teach students basic science concepts. Instead of traditional papers, students will write rap verses about science.

The best rhymes, as judged by GZA, will be published on Rap Genius - a feather in the cap of any aspiring MC. The artist will also appear in a video promoting the project and may visit some classrooms.

Emdin told the Times that through this project, he hopes to change the way city teachers relate to minority students, drawing on hip-hop music's structure, as well as the culture's social practices and values.

"The thing about science in particular is that historically, it's been known as a discipline that's very Eurocentric," he said in a video posted to his YouTube channel.

"Any group that doesn't see themselves as part of the history of science becomes removed from it, and if we don't embrace the culture of the youth in front of it, we're saying that we don't want them to be successful academically. A culturally responsive pedagogy in the new millennium embraces hip-hop culture."

Do you know an innovative teacher or school? Share the most novel teaching method you've heard about in the comments below.

Tags: POV

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