Knowledge Is a Sound: Teaching and Learning Science in Four Urban Classrooms

Walter S. Gershon (Kent State University)

From questions about methodology to constructions of meaning, there is a great deal of literature dedicated to the significance of voice across the wide variety of subfields within anthropology and across the social sciences. Questions about voice include the importance of listening to participants, providing spaces for traditionally marginalized voices to be heard, and attention to the ethical representation of others’ voices. Such attention is also prevalent in ethnographies of education and schooling that call for listening to all teacher and student voices in general and attention to traditionally underrepresented voices in particular. However, in spite of such calls, research still tends to be conducted without students representing themselves as authors or collaboratively in research processes and, similarly, rarely takes advantage of available technologies to provide opportunities for others to listen to their often marginalized participants. Utilizing a longitudinal sonic ethnography of how songwriting might help bridge race and gender gaps in science for urban P-8 students, this case addresses questions of voice and listening literally. In an effort to make the familiar strange, representative everyday sounds drawn from the first year of this study were organized to create rhythms and melodies, creating a “song” of students’ and teachers’ gaining and disseminating knowledge. This 15-minute sounded example then became a tool for analysis to examine the kinds of ideas, ideals, sensations and significations in which students engaged that changed the literal tone and tenor of their learning. This presentation includes both sounded and texted representations and documentation and analysis.  [Text Originally in the AAA 2013 Program]