Just as Dinovember ended, I discovered a new silly Dinosaur delight, Anne Muecke’s The Dinosaurs Night Before Christmas. I’ve already written about the many versions of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem A Visit from Saint Nicholas, and the ways they can be used to teach about parody. But I keep discovering new “Night Before” books that make me smile, so here’s to one more.
Actually, my favorite part of this book is at the end. After the poem, about a small boy who finds dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History coming to life for a fine Christmas party, there is a series of dinosaur Christmas carols—and even an accompanying CD! The lyrics to the carols are full of word play. Some are just silly fun, like “Deck the Halls with Stegasaurus” and “We Wish You a Dino Holiday” (which includes verses for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa), but others actually include serious dino-content in carol form. “Hey Duckbills” (to the tune of Jingle Bells) speculates on the function of duckbills’ crested skulls, and “Hark! The Pterodactyls Sing” describes dinosaurs interacting (though it would be a fine project to determine if all those mentioned actually lived during the same time period). How much creative fun would it be to take genuine science (or other) content and put it to some of these familiar tunes?
Now, I recognize that schools in the U.S. have significant limitations on the use of Christmas-related content. And I’ll also admit that the use of carols with sacred themes, like “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” for parodies, makes me uncomfortable. But all those problems are manageable. There are plenty of non-religious holiday carols and generic winter songs. There are plenty of familiar folk songs or contemporary songs that would serve just as well.
You wonder how this could work? Consider the classic “Pinky and the Brain–Brainstem.”
You know how you can still remember every word to song “classics” from your youth—even as you might want to forget them? Think about content you never want students to forget—then have them put to music. I’d love to share the results.