A Saturday morning urge to affiliate with science, music and other forms of life


If I were a science student in Middle School and my teacher asked me whether I was familiar with Björk’s Biophilia album, I would respond: ‘that is so 2011!’ This incredible musician/artist is an icon in my generation, but honestly speaking, how many of our Middle or High School students know who she is? So, if science teachers joined forces with art teachers to explore the music and Apps in this album, they would definitely be able to produce learning experiences where students and teachers altogether could become acquainted with instinctive bonds between human beings and other living systems, as described by Edward O. Wilson when he introduced the biophilia hypothesis in his book in 1984.

There is a formidable amount of information written on Interdisciplinary teaching, and I like what Marshall and Tucker (1992) mention when they state that interdisciplinary teaching fosters a high capacity for abstract and conceptual thinking; and that in an interdisciplinary learning environment students develop the ability to apply their thinking to real world problems since they function in an ambiance where communication skills are vital. Yet, for me, personally, when thinking about how exercising our abilities to work effectively with others to resolve conflict and to work with freedom, the sustained enthusiasm that manifests in students is what convinces me of its meaningful impact.

Therefore, if teachers consider that Björk’s Biophilia is the world’s “first app album”, and that it is a multimedia collection “encompassing music, apps, Internet, installations, and live shows”, the element of surprise and potential will be extremely high. Taking into account the exploratory exercises and tasks that could be created, the array of topics that can be addressed via the musical tracks, and the fact that some subtitles refer to the physical phenomena related to the song, and that others may refer to musical resources also related to those physical phenomena, a successful IDU is guaranteed.

Here are the tracks and their features as highlighted in Spin magazine in 2011.

1. Moon (Lunar cycles, sequences)

2. Thunderbolt (Lightning, arpeggios)

3. Crystalline (structures)

4. Cosmology (Music of the Spheres, equilibrium)

5. Dark Matter (Scales)

6. Hollow (DNA, rhythm)

7. Virus (Generative music)

8. Sacrifice (Man and Nature, Notation)

9. Mutual Core (Tectonic plates, chords)

10. Solstice (Gravity, counterpoint)

I personally love the story behind the song, “Virus”.  Björk mentioned that the app featured a close-up study of cells being attacked by a virus to represent what Snibbe (one of the App developers) calls: “A kind of a love story between a virus and a cell. And of course the virus loves the cell so much that it destroys it.”

The morning of January 18th, 2014 was a stimulating one, as I turned on my iTunes and got to listen to Thunderbolt (track No. 2), choosing to listen to the whole record again after months, “craving miracles” and, as a result, writing this post.

I love teaching languages, and I adore how this area of knowledge gives us language teachers the forum to discuss and explore any topic critically, but when I think of teaching possibilities such as the one described here, how I envy the possibilities other teachers have to use their classes as a knowledge and skills lab.

Some examples of outstanding Interdisciplinary Unit Plans (IDU) can be found here.


About Rafael Angel

Concept-Based Curriculum and Instructor Independent Trainer. Concept-Based Foreign Language Curriculum and Instruction specialist. Teaching and Learning Director; lives for traveling, reading, learning and tasting new flavours; culture and art lover; passionate about cinema and music. IB MYP, DP Workshop Leader. Mexican YouTuber and Soundclouder.
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