As science journalists (nominally, at least), we’re in the business of explaining things here at Ecocentric. Climate change, air pollution, offshore oil drilling, species loss—these are all complex subjects that require some background knowledge, for both journalist and reader, before we even get to the news of the day. The challenge in these changing media times is to figure out how to sneak in the background information without overwhelming the news. How do you provide an easy access point for new readers, especially for a constantly developing story like last year’s oil spill—or even better, hydraulic fracturing?
The answer, according to some of the best minds in new media, is Schoolhouse Rock. If you’re older than me, you probably remember the 1970s Saturday-morning cartoon show with educational songs like “Conjunction Junction,” and if you’re younger than me, maybe you remember it ironically. The show used music to introduce basic concepts to kids—and to this day, there are millions of people who only know the difference between a bill and a law because of Schoolhouse Rock.
So if musical explainers work for the intricacies of legislative democracy, why not something like shale gas and hydrofracking? That’s exactly what Jay Rosen and his graduate journalism class at New York University—along with the non-profit journalistic ninjas at ProPublica—have set out to do with the following video. Take a look:
I know—it’s awesome. Obviously videos like this aren’t meant to replace in-depth stories—at least, I don’t think so—but they’re a great, viral way to get the basics. I’m all for them—as long as I’m not doing the singing.
More from TIME:
This Rock Could Power the World