California Educator

September 2015

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Teacher has singing down to a science At first students feel silly when asked to sing in Maureen Rymer's chemistry class at Sweetwater High School in National City. But they soon discover the answers to the test stay in their head because of the songs they've memorized. So they happily break into song the next time they are asked. And the next. Years later, when former students visit, they'll sing the "Grams to Moles" song, which they still know by heart (see sidebar; hear Rymer sing it at I started writing songs… out of complete frustra- tion, because I couldn't get the kids to remember things. When I was a Girl Scout leader we did goofy chant songs. I realized I could write an eight- verse song and they would know everything a high school chemistry student needed to know about atoms. Of course, the first three verses are the most crucial. My name is Rymer… but my songs don't rhyme very much. I married my high school sweetheart, and his last name is Rymer. He was dating a friend, and she wanted to date somebody else and set me up with him. My interest in music… goes back to when my par- ents didn't let us kids listen to the radio and told us to sing together in the car. So we did. We sang rounds, camp songs, church songs, and anything to help the miles go by. One day I might… sell my songs and make money, but for now I enjoy sharing them with other teach- ers on campus. They can use a recording if they are too shy to sing it themselves. My students record the songs on their smartphones. I recently had a college student text me because she was tutoring students in chemistry and needed some of my songs. My advice for other teachers… is find a way to make it stick. Rap it. Make up a rhythm. Get kids to make up their own songs for extra credit. There's also good music out there by other musi- cians, which I use in my class. Check out songs on YouTube by Michael Offutt or Lynda Jones at to learn chemistry and physics. Have fun with it. Your students will have fun, too. The Sweetwater Education Association member has taught physics and chemistry for 32 years and won many awards, including Sweetwater Union High School District's Teacher of the Year and GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) Teacher of the Year. She tutors after school and on Saturdays and sponsors a science club, which took students to Utah in 2012 for a solar eclipse. She has presented at the CUE (Computer Using Educators) conference and the National Science Teachers Association. But mostly, Rymer is known for being in tune with her students and singing science songs she's written, accompanied by her guitar. She says music has given her students higher test scores, as well as provided har- mony in the classroom. In Maureen's words: "Grams to Moles" Grams to moles you divide By the molar mass. Grams to moles you divide By the molar mass from the table. Atoms to moles you divide Formula units to moles you divide Molecules to moles you divide By Avogadro's number Boom boom boom six point oh two two times 10 to the 23rd. By Sherry Posnick-Goodwin Photography by Scott Buschman 23 V O LU M E 2 0 I S S U E 2 Member spotlight Perspectives

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