Huntsville students use hip hop to bring social studies curriculum to life

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Art programs have proven to help improve a students memory and concentration skills. Not to mention helping develop decision making and critical thinking skills. One education program in Huntsville is using this philosophy to teach students about history.

Students at McNair Junior High School showcased their final projects Tuesday after participating in the North Alabama Arts Education Collaborative Program for three and a half weeks.

"The kids are learning their social studies material, but they’re doing it and also learning arts standards at the same time," said program director Karen Anderson.

Each student in the program is assigned to study a culture-- The Africans, Europeans, or Native Americans-- and create a rap and musical accompaniment to present to their peers and teachers.

It’s a program that combines arts education and core education.

"Students here today have been able to take what they’ve been learning in social studies class about different history, different cultures, and now use that to create creative expression with it. They’ve created songs, raps," explained teaching artist Mario Maitland.

The students have also learned to use software to create the music using instrumentation that the cultures they’re studying had available to them.

For example, this rap portrays the story of a Native American girl:

"I never did see how they thought it was fair,

when they came and invaded and wiped us out clear.

And the ones who survived were forced to be enslaved.

so no matter how it goes, no-one would be saved."

"We’ve had students come up to us and say 'this is the coolest thing we’ve ever done,'" Maitland said. "We’re going to make sure this program continues and we get to do it not just here, in but in other schools as well."

After their group presentations, three students were surprised and presented with scholarships to help further their education.

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