An online series of rap music videos to aid the teaching of evolution in schools launched in London last week.
The videos are based on the successful theatre show 'The Rap Guide to Evolution', which was performed to critical acclaim at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The brainchild of the award-winning performer Baba Brinkman, the show combines the wit, poetry and charisma of an accomplished rapper with the accuracy, knowledge and expertise of an evolutionary scientist.
Credit: Wellcome Trust
Now, with support from the Wellcome Trust, Baba has split the show into 12 parts, each with its own video addressing a different area of the science behind evolution. The videos will be available for free online from a resource-packed website, and a DVD will be available to schools from autumn 2011.
The launch event takes place tonight at the Prince Charles Cinema in London and will include previews of the videos, as well as performances by Baba and an introduction to the thinking behind the project.
The show owes its origins to Dr Mark Pallen, author of 'The Rough Guide to Evolution', who had seen Brinkman's internationally acclaimed Rap Canterbury Tales and challenged Brinkman to "do for Darwin what he had done for Chaucer". To ensure scientific and historical accuracy, Brinkman consulted Pallen throughout the creative process, making The Rap Guide to Evolution the first peer-reviewed hip-hop show. Pallen has described Brinkman as having "swallowed the idea and turned it into a work of genius".
After the show's success in Edinburgh, a host of science teachers contacted Baba to ask whether The Rap Guide to Evolution was available on DVD for them to use in the classroom, and thus the seed was sown in Baba's mind to devise a way of taking the material into schools.
On the launch of the videos, Baba said: "The response to the show so far has been overwhelming, but these videos really take it to the next level. I hope educators all over the world find them helpful in overcoming the indifference and hostility that often impede the teaching of evolution, and science in general. Hip-hop music is all about rebellion, and no one's ideas are more revolutionary than Charles Darwin's."
The Rap Guide has been described as "astonishing and brilliant" by the 'New York Times', with 'Science' magazine adding that Baba "marries the fast, complex, literate delivery of Eminem with the evolutionary expertise and confrontational manner of Dawkins".
The videos will be made available for free on the Rap Guide to Evolution website, along with educational resources and a host of bonus features and ongoing updates to facilitate their use by teachers.
Subsequent music videos in the series will be released over the coming months and made available for free online, and Baba will continue to promote their use with a world tour of the live show.
Read an interview with Baba Brinkman on the Wellcome Trust Blog to find out more about how the project came about and his experiences teaching evolution through rap music.