(different types of instruments and how they sound), dependent variables (rate of seed germination), and controlled variables (light
intensity, temperature, water, etc.). This was an interesting departure from simply exposing seeds to music (instead comparing exposures to individual instruments). Another group decided to test
whether different species of seeds are equally sensitive to music,
and they used four different types of seed for the investigation.
Another group decided to compare the music sensitivity of monocotyledonous and dicotyledonous seeds.
Apart from fostering creative thinking, it was clear that affective
outcomes, such as student interest, were achieved in this activity.
Each student was asked to describe their emotional response to
their involvement (summarized in Figure 3).
As shown in Table 2, various assessment opportunities exist, such as
a class seminar in which all the groups do short presentations of
their findings, a poster display, or student reports in the form of
journal articles. The following questions could be used to guide student reflection on the inquiry:
• Is there a sufficient body of scientific literature showing that
music could enhance seed germination? How rigorous were
the experiments performed (e.g., in terms of the number of
seeds used or the number of repetitions)?
• Which biological explanations can be offered for enhanced germination of seeds exposed to music?
• What were the dependent and independent variables in your
• What problems did you experience with your research? If you
had to repeat the project, what changes would you make to
the experimental design?
• Sonication is a process in which sound waves are used to agitate particles in solutions. What applications exist for sonication
in modern industry?
• What did you learn from the literature regarding the biological,
psychological, and social effects of music on people?
A growing volume of research demonstrates the merit of indigenous
knowledge and practices, such as those of the Maranao people in the
Philippines, who expose seeds to music in order to improve crop
yields. Although the biochemistry is not yet fully understood, it
appears that music has an effect on the viscosity of the plasmalemma
and the availability of intercellular Ca2+, which influences the activity of membrane-based enzymes.
This inquiry could be effective in enhancing students’ interest
in botany. From the literature it appears that certain forms of music
(e.g., classical and devotional music) are more effective than others
(e.g., acid rock). It could also assist students in critically reflecting
on experimental designs. This is a particularly complex investigation, given the large number of variables involved. The experiment
described above (Figure 1) can be used as an exemplar that students could interrogate in terms of scientific rigor (or lack thereof).
When compared to more rigorous studies, such as the one by
Creath (2002), it should be clear to students that a lot can be done
to improve the experimental design described here. Creath (2002)
obtained data from the germination of 3600 seeds over a total of
Figure 2. Examples of student posters.
Figure 3. Word cloud summarizing students’ emotional
responses to their involvement in the activity. The majority of
students indicated that they experienced the activity as
“interesting” and “challenging.”