The Utah FORGE Geothermal Song Parody Contest — Engaging Students Through Song

By Sarah Buening (UofU) June 20, 2023

A few years back, the Utah FORGE team became aware of a former middle school science teacher, Tom McFadden, who created song parody videos to teach students about scientific facts, terms and concepts. With his inspiration in mind, the Utah FORGE geothermal song parody contest was born. In this contest, we challenge students from various schools to write and perform original lyrics to a well-known song. Said parodies must include information about geothermal energy and use some related vocabulary words.

The contest, which aims to creatively engage and educate students, has achieved great success. This year, not only did the students benefit from their learning and engagement, but they received recognition and prizes courtesy of Enel Green Power. The geothermal song parody contest provides a creative outlet for students to relieve potential eco-anxiety, have some fun and ultimately, learn more about geothermal energy!

Eco-Anxiety in the Younger Generation

Students of this generation recognize that climate change is a daunting reality. Born into an era of global warming induced eco-anxiety and conflict, many young people experience a toll on their mental health. One survey revealed that 60% of young participants expressed feeling very or extremely worried about climate change, with 45% saying that those worries impacted their daily lives.

It’s obvious that young people recognize the urgency of adopting renewable energy infrastructure better than anyone. While they’re eager to do what they can, that task can seem daunting or even impossible at times. Learning about sustainable alternatives to current technologies, however, can help empower students to advocate for or pursue careers in the renewable energy sector. This may help to counteract feelings of powerlessness. Students need to see that research is current and ongoing to help improve the efficiency of renewable technologies, and Utah FORGE provides a tangible representation of that.

Furthermore, creative outlets work as effective stress relievers and help to optimize learning. While educational systems have largely prioritized STEM funding and research, failing to include artistic expression within that education would be a mistake. Not only do aesthetic experiences correlate to broad improvements in emotional states and physical and psychological well-being, but participation in the arts can lead to higher levels of civic engagement and social tolerance. In response to these benefits, many are pushing for the introduction of arts into the STEM movement. By turning STEM into STEAM, we can incorporate creative thinking into STEM teachings. Like seen in this contest, that simple change can offer students a refreshing new way to look at the energy problems around them.

Student Submissions and Winners

As song submissions shuffled in, each student’s spunk and creativity was put on clear display. We at Utah FORGE were happy to see the students enjoying the contest and having fun working together with their groups. Teachers agreed, citing how engaged their students became when learning through this medium.

Winners of 2023 Song Parody Contest: Allie Willden & Alexia Joseph from Beaver High School

The winners of this year's contest, students Allie Willden and Alexia Joseph from Beaver High School, parodied the song “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift — including remakes of popular chorus lyrics like “Why can’t you see - heat beneath your feet. Thermal energy.” We also enjoyed the line, “Did you know that the earth is a geothermal battery with vast geothermal resources? And it has enough power that could light up this whole town.” The runner-up team from Beaver High School as well, included students Brylee Sorenson, Drake Blackner, Jerzee Beaumont, Lily Wright and Marli Wheatley. They also used Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” to sing of how geothermal energy is “inexhaustible, we can never use it all up.”

The winning group from Milford High School — students Lydia George, Renata Gomez, Kenadee Carney and Sunday Campbell — used the song “Gorgeous” by Kanye West to call geothermal the “coolest way to create energy,” because “it’s reliable, renewable and always available.” Winners from Elk Meadows — Brighton Peterson, Chloe Ballentine, Haylie Stokes, Layla Wakley and Makayla Evans — transformed the song “Somewhere Only We Know” by Keane into their remake, “Somewhere Only Heat Flows.” Taelyn Marshall, Ayden Harris, Kailee Coombs, Kolter Marshall and Chloe Marshall from Minersville, as well as Isaac Gessel from Hidden Valley, also earned honorable mentions for their performances.

Allie Willden & Alexia Joseph from Beaver High School

Rest assured, the lyrics are even more enjoyable when performed. But they each demonstrate an attitude that we want to cultivate in today’s young people. That is, to learn about and bolster the solutions that we have available to us. Geothermal energy represents a promising solution to some of the worries plaguing young students and adults alike. We’re glad to see students embrace learning and fun in the same effort and only hope to foster more of it in the future.

Great job to all of this year’s song parody contest participants!

Watch the Winning Song Parody Video

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