This week findingEducation caught up with Blake Harrison, a.k.a. Emcee Escher, rapper, educator and creative director of Flocabulary, to hear how he and Alex Rappaport, cofounder and executive producer, are bringing their energy and passion for hip-hop to the classroom.
By weaving words into rhymes with infectious beats, Harrison and Rappaport knew they could engage students and ultimately teach them something. Their first CD, released in 2004, put vocabulary words in context, helping prepare students for the SATs. Since then, they’ve developed programs for teaching world and U.S. history, math, science and even Shakespeare. They’ve taken their music on tour, held teaching workshops and created a current events series called The Week in Rap, now being broadcast on Channel One, a national TV news network for teens.
fE: When did you get the idea for Flocabulary?
BH: In high school, I had one teacher in particular who used to say “’Sesame Street’ has spoiled you guys. You guys don’t know how to learn. You think education has to be fun, but it doesn’t. It shouldn’t be.” And I couldn’t disagree with him more. I just thought he was being lazy.
Education can be fun and we make it really fun for youngsters. But right around middle school and high school, there isn’t as much emphasis on that. And I just didn’t think that was necessary. I thought you could teach really serious academic content, get people where thy have to be in terms of the standards in achievement, while also doing something that’s really engaging.