Schoolhouse Rock was a childhood staple. (How could anyone forget, “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?”) Once I hit high school, though, learning got a little less entertaining. Had there been a Schoolhouse Rap, I might have paid a little more attention. Where was Smart Songs when I was falling asleep in the back of government class?
Started by Jeff DuJardin and Scott Geer, better known as “Shoeless Jeff” and “Scott Free,” Smart Songs believes in “hip hop that teaches.” Focused on different areas of history, social studies, science and finance, the songs turn topics like the Bill of Rights into something catchy rather than dull, making it easier for students to memorize course material.
Although they met on a baseball field when they were 13, it was hip hop that initially spurred their friendship. At the time, DuJardin was on second base while Geer was playing short stop. DuJardin started rhyming, and the collaboration stemmed from there. Both from Rhode Island, the two went to Providence College, performing up and down the East Coast.
On one of their tours, the duo decided to stop in to a Boston inner city school where DuJardin’s brother teaches to perform for his students. After seeing how they connected to the music, they realized they might have made a new connection.
“There were a lot of positive messages we wanted to get through our music, and what better way than through education for kids?” Geer said.
So often, you hear children reciting the lyrics to catchy tunes. Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” always resounded with my younger cousin, but at what age should you be brushing your teeth with a bottle of Jack? Point being: If the tune’s catchy, students will start singing it, so you might as well make it educational and send a positive message when you get that chance
To create just one song, DuJardin and Geer need to put in several days’ worth of research. Oftentimes, DuJardin said he’ll look at children’s books, because “they break it down very simply with a lot of great information.”
They’ll also read through actual documentation, panning through the entire Constitution before creating a song about it. While they write their own lyrics and do try to have fun with their videos, they also make sure everything is 100 percent accurate, since the ultimate goal is one thing: to educate children.
“We don’t have a background in higher ed, but we do see the benefits of helping kids,” Geer said.
And DuJardin agreed, saying, “I think it’s difficult for teachers to keep their students engaged, especially in today’s world, with so many distractions. This is a way for them to really get their students’ attention.”
The two have created Song Challenges for their first CD, which they soon hope to turn into an educational board game. They’re also working on creating a DVD to compliment their “Trip to DC” CD, and plan on releasing another album, called a “Trip to Wall Street,” within the upcoming weeks. From more historical aspects, like the Great Depression, to tips on the stock market, the songs are intended to help students learn how to manage their money.
Below, you’ll find their “Stock Market Song,” as well as a couple other educational jams you’re guaranteed to learn something from no matter how old you are.