The Real School of Rock Beefs Up Its Curriculum

Rock Hall EDU provides instant access to educational packets, music, photos, and more.
Rock Hall EDU provides instant access to educational packets, music, photos, and more. Screen Grab from Rock Hall EDU
Jason Hanley, Ph.D., says he’s used to the reaction. As the VP of Education and Visitor Engagement at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, he’s attended plenty of educational conferences and meetings to let teachers and school administrators know about Rock Hall EDU, the educational component of the Hall's many programs. And he gets the same bewildered question.

“It’s one of the great moments for our staff when teachers have walked by our booth, seen the presentation, got excited and asked ‘But how much does it cost?’ And when we say ‘It’s free!’ their faces just light up!” Hanley

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Jason Hanley, Ph.D., is the VP of Education and Visitor Engagement for the Rock Hall.
Staff Photo/Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
When the Houston Press first profiled Rock Hall EDU and its mission back in March of this year, it was in the early days of the pandemic, and staff members were scrambling to shift and bolster its online content. Mainly for parents having to keep their kids both occupied and educationally stimulated at home. Now, Hanley and his staff are taking it even further.

“We have a commitment to education, and we’ve always had programs for that, including on-site events. But we had to put all of that on hold because of the pandemic,” Hanley says.

“So we had to find a way to combine all those great resources and put it [online]. There was such a need for teachers and families to have it. And it’s been amazing to see how many people have connected to it.”

The Rock Hall EDU programs incorporate both existing content from the Hall’s archives and displays, as well as original projects and activities. In just the last several months, Hanley says that the program has reached a million students via their public/private school instructors, homeschooling parents, or just on their own. To date, it has reached nearly a million students in 5,000 cities in 115 countries.

Currently on the Rock Hall EDU site, the bevy of Featured Content includes multimedia “packets” on Toddler Rock (using music to enhance the social/emotional learning of Pre-K students), a BTS Activity Pack (linking the super-hot Korean boy band with other groups in history like the Beatles), a 2020 Inductee Spotlight, and a video on how to make a harmonica. Content can be filtered by decade, grade group, media type, and subject to better match an educator’s needs. It’s accessible to anyone who creates an online account.

They’ve also kicked off a Fam Jam series, in conjunction with co-hosts the Cleveland Public Library, the Beck Center for the Arts, and the Children’s Museum of Cleveland. These livestreamed events include interactive musical activities for families, and are then recorded and available for viewing on the Hall’s YouTube channel. The next one is scheduled for December 12. 

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A writing prompt about the lyrics of Bob Dylan for students.
PowerPoint Screen Grab/Rock Hall EDU
Older students can see packets on Music & Social Justice, Middle and High School Writing Prompts, Fantasy in Rock and Literature, DIY Punk Rock, and materials on just why an artist is inducted into the Rock Hall and their influence.

The new “It’s Been Said All Along: Voices of Rage, Hope, and Empowerment” is both an in-person exhibit currently at the Rock Hall and online. The socially-conscious music of artists like James Brown, Gil Scott-Heron, Public Enemy, Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, N.W.A., and Nina Simone are used to teach issues with music from the past. But “students” will also see how contemporary performers like Janelle Monáe, the Fantastic Negrito, and Kendrick Lamar pick up the torch today.

“The world is dealing with issues of race and racism and policy brutality a lot, and it’s come to a head over the last year. So as a museum, we went back and said these are systemic social issues that have been going on and reflected [in music] for a long time in the U.S.,” Hanley says. “It’s important to talk about it now, but it’s also important to recognized the history behind it. It’s been such a positive project.”

For the 2020 Inductee Collections, Hanley says they are working on new material that will debut on the website soon. Like showing how the induction of Depeche Mode could be a launching pad to teach students about the use of synthesizers and computers in making music, adding a science component.

“We have this incredible opportunity here to educate with the history of rock and roll, and make the archives come alive, expand, and make something new,” Hanley sums up. “It is an art form that changed the world and connects with cultural ideas all over the world. And with Rock Hall EDU, you can find yourself going down the rabbit hole and learning a lot, Even if you’re just a fan.”

For more information and to sign up for Rock Hall EDU, visit
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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero