Grand Hank Productions uses hip-hop to teach STEM

Tyraine Ragsdale, also known as scientist Grank Hank, interacts with a young girl at “The Magic and Wonders of STEM” holiday event last month. — Submitted photo

Music is an integral part of students and adults daily lives, and most use digital music devices and services. Grand Hank Productions Inc. (GHPI) uses hip-hop music to reveal the influence and importance of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to students of all ages.

Founded in 1989 by Tyraine Ragsdale, Grand Hank Productions Inc. is a multimedia educational, production company, established to provide educational training and instruction to students, educators and administrators of grades K-12; through the application of state-of-the-art live and recorded production technologies, communications and marketing methodologies.

“I was a research chemist for the R.W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Insitute Division of Johnson and Johnson for a number of years,” Rasdale said. “While I was there, I realized that there was a shortage of African Americans in the area of STEM. One of my goals has always been, that if I had the opportunity to impact the lives of people centered around learning that I would.

“In addition to being a chemist, I also had a background in music and was a DJ. I ended up finding a way to combine the art of DJing with science. That is really how the concept of GHPI came about. I wanted to get information about STEM in a way that would be exciting, entertaining and fun.”

Since its inception, GHPI has produced The “Science of Philadelphia” and the “Science Lab of Grand Hank” television shows. These dynamic programs are utilized by the Philadelphia School District as cable in the classroom programs and also broadcast on Comcast Cable, and MIND-TV Public Television Networks with a viewing audience estimated at 10 million people across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. GHPI has reached more than 10 million students, parents and administrators across the United States and internationally.

In 2009, Ragsdale received the George Washington Carver Award for his display of outstanding accomplishments in the field of science. In March of 2012, Grand Hank broke the Guinness Book of World Record for facilitating the largest chemistry lesson in history at the National Science Teachers Association Conference in Indianapolis, Ind.

“We have a number of ways to approach learning,” Ragsdale said. “We do professional development for teachers and train them on how to make STEM more appealing to their students and we do student based programs. Both programs are designed to expose and build students self esteem in areas of STEM.

“The way STEM was taught in the past turned a lot of students off because of the level of difficulty. By GHPI integrating the music component, students are able to be themselves and enhance their knowledge of STEM. The students know they have to work hard, but they are now able to learn in a way that makes them feel comfortable.”

Last Month, GHPI hosted a holiday event titled “The Magic and Wonders of STEM” at First District Plaza. There were two shows, a morning assembly for school children grade Pre-k to 3rd grade and a evening show consisting of families with students of all ages.

American Petroleum Institute sponsored the giveaways for the students that included iPad minis, iPad Airs and Beats by Dre headphones. The event used a multimedia approach to STEM and included dancing, singing, rapping and science experiment.

“The event purpose was to expose students to the power of STEM while reuniting families for the holidays,” Ragsdale said. “Everyone who came to the event was very engaged. They enjoyed the music and the science experiments. It was really great to see everyone interact and learn about STEM. It was a great day.”

GHPI has several projects in the works. The company is building a Grand Hank STEM Center for inner city youth near the LaSalle Campus. The facility will house of all of the components and STEM and will be complete with a TV studio, a culinary kitchen, a medical area, chemistry lab and event center. The grand opening will be late summer of this year.

From Feb. 11-13, GHPI will be hosting a Black History Month science field trip at First District Plaza. The event will feature live science demonstrations, where each lesson features a biographical look at an African-American scientist and/or inventor who influenced the science behind the experiment. The goals of the event series is to provide students with a foundation on how science has evolved over the years with the help of African Americans.

“In addition to the STEM building and the Black History event, we’re also broaden our internationally brand. We recently went to South Africa and did a 11-city tour in which we did professional development with teachers about STEM and how they can teach STEM to their students with the limited resources that they have. We also provided live events for the students.

“We also developed a relationship with The South African Association of Science and Technology Educators. In the spring, we’re embarking on a 25 city tour across the U.S. We’re just going to keep expanding and informing people about the importance of STEM. I started GHPI in 1989, and it’s amazing to see how far we have come and how huge of an impact we’ve made on kids lives. We’ve been able to do some great things over the years.The future is looking bright.”

For more information on Grand Hank Productions Inc., visit www.grandhank.com.

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