ENGLEWOOD — Hip-hop artist Asheru had a message for the kid he met with this week at Earle STEM Academy: Science can sing.
Asheru, whose real name is Gabriel Benn, performed his widely known theme song for the popular TV series "The Boondocks" on Wednesday. Then he and the more than 150 students, parents and teachers at Earle, 2040 W. 62nd St., took part in science, technology, engineering and math activities that he said are crucial to success later in life.
Asheru did a simple experiment using materials like a paper cup, black marker and water, and showed that the color “black absorbs all light and colors, so it is not absent of color.”
Students also were able to rotate among several interactive STEM exploration stations. One had them designing clothes from recyclable materials, while another had them create a wind-powered car. One station allowed students to build a boat that could withstand various weights.
Mariah Cooper, 9, learned how to write code for digital games.
“It was difficult because I couldn’t see how to do it, and I had to be patient and just focus,” Cooper said.
Her father, Fred, said interactive activities are good, and it’s best to capture students' attention while they’re still young.
“Anytime a kid is having fun they can learn,” he said.
Asheru explained to the educators at the workshop hosted by Discovery Education that using popular culture can help motivate kids to learn.
For example, Asheru — who has performed with Common, Mos Def, Ludacris, The Roots and others — told students about rapper Kanye West’s song “Diamonds are Forever." The song is about the diamond mines in Sierra Leone and how diamonds are made using coal and pressure.
Asheru, a Washington, D.C., native, also co-founded Educational Lyrics, a publishing company that produces teaching materials, including the Hip-Hop Educational Literacy Program, a series of supplemental reading books to help students.
“I want to reach them, so I’m using the language of the youth to reach the youth, and I can’t do that without using hip-hop," Asheru said. "That’s our culture."
Jeremy Dulle, senior director of strategy and operations at Discovery Education, said the company hopes to hold events at other CPS schools.
“We’re always excited about coming into districts and talking about STEM, and the main reason is because we believe STEM is the future and it engages kids,” he said.
Earle Principal Cederrall Petties praised the event.
“We have children who generally have been in a situation where they have not had opportunities to access some of the educational opportunities that are out here, so just giving them the opportunity to come out with their families and interact in a fun and positive way in something that is educational, is significant,” he said.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: