Sixth graders at Roesland Elementary apply science lessons to create their own musical

The Roesland Elementary sixth graders composed their own rap lyrics for "The Physics of Flight" musical.
The Roesland Elementary sixth graders composed their own rap lyrics for “The Physics of Flight” musical.

Watch out “Hamilton,” there’s a new hip-hop musical taking flight at Roesland Elementary School that updates old lessons in a fresh way.

With the help of NASA, the Kansas Cosmosphere, Johnson County Community College and a creative music instructor, 60 sixth graders will be presenting their own original musical “The Physics of Flight” this Thursday.

“It’s a lot different from how we’d do it in the classroom,” said Ethan Blood, 11. “It’s a lot more fun.”

Blood, the son of David and Paul Blood, had just finished rehearsing on the Roesland stage under the guidance of music teacher Debbie Allen. A big mural of cutout planets and math equations served as the backdrop.

Together, the students were singing tunes they’d composed with lyrics based on what they’d learned with the help of a science grant provided by the Hutchinson-based Cosmosphere and additional support from NASA and the Johnson County Community College Arts in Education program.

“My favorite song was “I Wish That I Could Fly,” said Saumya Verma, 11, the daughter of Raj and Geeta Verma. “I learned how the physics of flight works and how aerodynamics help planes fly.

“It got modern fairly fast.”

All of this is music to the ears of Allen, who has been a music teacher for 31 years. Three years ago, she was chosen to become an arts partner by the The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Its mission is to pair schools with cultural organizations in their city.

Debbie Allen
Debbie Allen

Last year, Johnson County Community College invited students for a program that involved the Cosmosphere and NASA. The kids had a chance to build their own gliders, paper airplanes and propellors, learning about the physics of flight.

“I thought, let’s pull together a musical,” Allen said. “I wrote an outline last summer and every class period did research on the history of flight and Isaac Newton. As we did the research, we put together lyrics.”

For the “Forces of Motion,” each student wrote their own rap verse.

“It’s interesting to learn about gravity and why it’s there,” said Monique Thies, 11, the daughter of Maya Thies. “I also learned a lot about persevering, just because people say you can’t, you can.”

Robby Parrott, 12, the son of Bill and Sarah Parrott, enjoyed the physics of flight.

“It’s a fun way to learn,” he said. “We got to play with the physics, it’s easier than writing it down.”

There will be two performances of “The Physics of Flight,” 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. at the school located at 4600 Parish in Roeland Park. It’s probably not going to follow “Hamilton” as a Broadway hit, but Allen says it will be memorable.

“They won’t forget some of these concepts,” she said of her young actors.