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Redesigning the Learning Process: Introductory Chemistry Education

through Dance, Music, GIFS, Memes, and Other Non-Traditional Media

Adaobi Ahanotu

This project will determine whether dance, music, GIFS, and/or memes are
effective in teaching chemistry. The final project will consist of a either a website
or a YouTube channel in which I post dance videos/memes/GIFS depending on
which is the most effective based on student’s feedback. In addition, this project
will serve as an alternative, revolutionary model, in comparison to the straight-
lecture model. This is important because there are many different learning styles
and the lecture model is only catering to one learning style. In addition, the reason
I chose to do my project specifically on chemistry is because many college
students struggle in introductory chemistry. As a result this project will provide
other options in learning the material.

As a college student, I have been in the United States educational system for
more than fourteen years. I have had good and bad teachers. What sets the good
teachers apart is that they find innovative, creative ways to teach that are different
from the standard lecture. In other words, good teachers make learning
entertaining. (Leblanc, 1998). But in all my years of schooling, I have yet to see a
teacher incorporate dance/memes/GIFS as a means to teach. As a result, this
Capstone project will set out to discover if dance/memes/GIFS can be used as a
way to redesign the classroom and teach students, particularly in chemistry. In
addition, my project will answer the burning question of whether art and chemistry
can mingle. As a result, my project will focus more on science subjects because I
want to explore the idea of bringing two vast and different areas of expertise
together. Thus, my project will also portray an interdisciplinary approach of
science and the arts/technology to teach and make the learning experience
enjoyable and effective for students.


This project will use either dance/GIFS/memes to teach chemistry,
depending on which is more effective. More specifically, the project will consist of
a collection of educational resources that teach chemistry using different media.
This project may culminate in a YouTube channel or a website. By using non-
traditional ways to teach chemistry, I will take into account the visual, auditory,
and tactile learning styles that are often present in any random group of students.
(Ferriman, 2013).

Normally, many teachers teach by lecturing to the students, and later on

testing their knowledge with a test. It has been this way for centuries. But studies
have shown that some students tend to get bored with this teaching model and end
up not learning. As a result, I hope that this project will serve as one example of
redesigning a classroom and see learning in a whole new light. In addition, this
project will be a call for all teachers to change their teaching habits, in order to
ensure that all students are learning and that no child is left behind. One way this
project will attempt to do that is by using art and technology to teach science.


Teaching today in universities and high schools are heavily dependent on

lectures. During classical times, the lecture became known as the medium for
rhetoric. Famous scholars such as Aristotle and Cicero extensively lectured in their
society. (Sutherland, 1976).As a result, the lecture became a crucial part of the
scholastic process. Many students however, seem to prefer this way, at the expense
of their learning. This is because in lectures, the students take up a passive
listening role that prevents them from taking actual responsibility for their
education. As a result, in most lectures, students are often bored after the first
fifteen minutes and thus do not learn as much as they should.

Many scholars have taken up the call to revolutionize teaching. One of them
is Dr. Edward Redish, a physics professor at the University of Maryland, College
Park. Dr. Redish determined that the traditional lecture-based physics class was not
the right way for students to learn physics. He discovered that a lot of students who
were taught physics through the traditional lecture could not apply the laws of
physics to real-life situations. As a result, Dr. Redish has sought to change this by
introducing technology into the classroom and by creating a specific introductory
class for life sciences majors. Another scholar in physics education research is Dr.
Eric Mazur, a physics professor at Harvard University, who pioneered the use of
peer instruction. A student who knows the material is more likely than a professor

to clear up confusion that another student has. (Hanford, “Rethinking the Way
College Students Are Taught”).This is because the student recently learned the
material, so they are aware of the conceptual difficulties surrounding the material
and can better help their fellow student.

Other scholars have provided the foundational support for alternative

teaching methods. A prominent example is Dr. Howard Gardner, who was a
Harvard University professor of education. He developed the famous theory of
Multiple Intelligences. This theory states that the traditional notion of intelligence
based on IQ testing, is very limiting and thus displays inaccurate information.
(Armstrong, 2016). Instead, Dr. Gardner proposes eight different intelligences that
a person could possibly have. These are very important because they give insight
on the different ways students learn. But unfortunately, as Dr. Gardner revealed,
our schools and culture focus most of their attention on only two of the eight
intelligences: linguistic and logical/mathematical intelligence. This is because in
today’s culture, we highly respect those among us who are very articulate and
logical. As a result, the theory of Multiple Intelligences argues that teachers should
tailor their teaching so that it addresses most, if not all of the eight intelligences. As
a result, dance integration in the curriculum has become very popular because it
serves as a way to account for most of the multiple intelligences. Dance integration
is simply using dance as a tool for teaching other academic subjects. Dance
integration came about during the 1980s and 1990s as a reaction to education
reform that urged schools to take an interdisciplinary approach to teaching. (Gross,


My proposed project seeks to determine whether chemistry can be taught
through dance. This is a question worth asking because there is a high DFW
(students who receive Ds, Fs, or withdraw) rate across many introductory
chemistry level courses. (Benford and Gess-Newsome, 2006). This is due to the
ineffective instructional style of large lecture classes. Thus, one way to reduce the
DFW rate is by changing the instructional method of these classes. My project will
attempt to propose a solution, which would be to involve dance/memes/GIFS in
teaching introductory chemistry.

This is a DCC project that serves as a culmination of my time in the program

because it integrates the value of using creative ideas to solve problems. Dr. Jason
Farman, one the directors of DCC, realized that the common lecture was not
effective in teaching. So as a result, he integrated technology through the use of

Twitter into his class. I was inspired by his teaching method and this is why I
would like to test to see if dance/memes/GIFS can be integrated into chemistry
instruction so that students will learn more.

Fortunately, dance integration is already happening at the elementary school

level. Recently, at Fort Garrison Elementary School in Pikesville, MD, teachers are
using dance to teach the concept of photosynthesis to second-graders. This was
made possible in part by a small, new program called “Teaching Science with
Dance in Mind”. This program provides support and professional development for
several classroom teachers to collaborate with dance specialists in order to
integrate dance into their science curriculum. (Robelen, 2010). Although many
efforts have been taken to use dance to teach science in elementary schools, it still
is not widely used to teach science in high schools and colleges. In places where
dance is used to teach chemistry, it does not incorporate music. This is where my
project is different. My project will test to see if dance with music
involved/memes/GIFS can be used to teach introductory level college chemistry.
This is important because sometimes difficult concepts are easier explained
through movement, fun animations, and pictures than in just words. (Burke, 2009).


My expertise and skills include dancing and teaching. In addition, I am a
biochemistry major, so I am already familiar with the topics taught in introductory-
level chemistry courses. However, I am not so great with video-editing. So since I
will use video to film my capstone project, I need to become familiar with
Windows Movie Maker, which is the video-editing software I have chosen to use
to edit the videos. I will also need to perfect my memes-making skills. Fortunately,
I am pretty good at making GIFS.

This project will manifest itself as a YouTube channel/website consisting of
videos that incorporate dance in teaching introductory-level general chemistry or
memes/GIFS that can be incorporated in teaching introductory level chemistry. I
will post them publicly on YouTube or make a website. Using YouTube’s
like/dislike system, I will be able to gauge whether my project is successful. In
addition, I will invite viewers to email me their suggestions and thoughts so that I
could incorporate those in future videos as well. If I end up making a website, I
will invite other people, especially those in introductory level chemistry classes
here at UMD, to view my website and email me their suggestions and feedback.


• Week 1 (01/30/17-02/04/17): Review General Chemistry textbook from last
year and high school AP Chemistry notes . Choose topic for meme 1, GIF 1,
and video 1. Make meme 1, GIF 1, and film/edit video 1.

• Week 2 (2/05/17-2/11/16): Receive feedback on which form of media was

better at explaining the topic 1.

• Week 3 (02/12/17-02/18/17): Choose topic for meme 2, GIF 2, and video 2.

Make meme 2, GIF 2, and film/edit video 2.

• Week 4 (02/19/17-02/25/17): Receive feedback on which form of media

was better at explaining topic 2.

• Week 5 (02/26/17-03/04/17): Choose topic for meme 3, GIF 3, and video 3.

Make meme 3, GIF 3, and film/edit video 3.

• Week 6 (03/05/17-03/11/17): Receive feedback for on which form of media

was better at explaining topic 3.

• Benchmark 1: Have at least 2 memes, 2 GIFs, and 2 videos done and a

representation of all the feedback and data collected and data analysis.

• Week 7(03/12/17-03/18/17): Choose topic for meme 4, GIF 4 and video 4.

Make meme 4, GIF 4, and film/edit video 4.

• Week 10 (03/19/17-03/25/17): Enjoy spring break! 

• Week 11 (03/26/17-04/01/17): Gather feedback for meme 4, GIF 4, and

video 4. Also decide on what platform you will use to showcase your work. I
will decide whether I will do a website or a YouTube channel based on

feedback. If I later on choose a website, I will begin to work on it at this

• Benchmark 2: Have at least 4 memes, 4 GIFs, 4 videos done.

• Week 13 (04/2/17-04/08/17): Choose topic for meme 5, GIF 5, and video 5.

Make meme 5, GIF 5, and video 5.

• Week 14 (4/9/17-4/15/17): Gather feedback on meme 5, GIF 5, and video 5.

• Week 15 (4/16/17-4/29/17): Time reserved to make-up anything I need to


• Benchmark 3: Have final project which will include a website or a

YouTube channel showcasing your work and your data analysis.

This project is for high school students enrolled in honors chemistry or AP
Chemistry and college students who are taking the first semester of general
chemistry. This is the audience for my project because in my videos, I will be
covering topics that are commonly taught in these courses. Many students in these
courses want to do well, but may struggle with the current lecture model. As a
result, my videos will provide an alternative approach to learning chemistry.

• Rabbitgoo 17.7 by 78.7(inches)Self-Adhesive Wall Sticker Wall Paper
Whiteboard: $10.99
• Ella Bella Photography Backdrop Paper (4 by 12 feet): $17.19

One of my long-term goals as a student is to become a doctor. In order to do
that, I would need to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) which
will test my understanding of chemistry, among other topics. By completing this

project, I will not only be reviewing for the MCAT, but it will help me understand
the material more because I will be teaching it. This is called the protégé effect.
The protégé effect is the phenomenon in which student teachers score higher than
students who learn the material for their own sake. (Paul, 2011). This project will
live on after my time in DCC as a YouTube channel in which I will upload videos
of topics being taught through dance (provided that I receive positive feedback).


Armstrong, Thomas. “Multiple Intelligences.” American Institute for Learning and

Human Development, Accessed 10
November 2016.

Benford, Russell., and Julie Gess-Newsome. “Factors Affecting Students

Academic Success in Gateway Courses at Northern Arizona University.” Center
for Science Teaching and Learning. Flagstaff: Northern Arizona University, 2006.

Burke, Jane. “Chemistry Meets Choreography to Enhance Student

Comprehension.” Edutopia,
dance-visualization. Accessed 19 November 2016.

Ferriman, Justin. “7 Major Learning Styles.” LearnDash, Accessed
19 November 2016.

Gross, Mara. Time, Space, and Energy for Dance Education. MA Thesis, Ohio
State University, 2008.

Hanford, Emily. “Rethinking the Way College Students Are Taught.” American
Radio Works,
college/lectures/rethinking-teaching.html. Accessed 10 November 2016.

Leblanc, Richard. “Good Teaching: The Top Ten Requirements.” The Teaching
Professor, vol.12, no. 6, 1998.

Paul, Annie Murphy. “The Protégé Effect: Why Teaching Someone Else Is the
Best Way to Learn.” Time Magazine. Nov. 2011.

Robelen, Erik. “Schools Integrate Dance Into Core Academics.” Editorial Projects
in Education, vol. 30, no. 12, 2010, pp. 14-15.

Sutherland, Thomas. “The Lecture Method.” National Association of Colleges and

Teachers of Agriculture, 1976, pp. 29-33.