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Keratin and Melanin

by Greg Crowther


I wrote this song for Biology 241 at South Seattle College while burrowing through a horribly dense textbook chapter on the integumentary system. Disappointed with the mind-numbing coverage of endless details, I stepped back and offered this to my students as a quick reminder of the bigger picture.


One's a polypeptide; one of them is not.
The epidermis makes them and stockpiles them a lot....

Keratin and melanin protect my skin. (Say it again!)
Keratin and melanin protect my skin.

Keeping water inside; making skin so strong.
Absorbing UV light when I'm in the sun too long....

Keratin and melanin protect my skin. (Say it again!)
Keratin and melanin protect my skin.

Doo doo doo duh doo.
Doo doo doo duh doo.
Doo doo doo duh doo,
Doo doo doo duh doo,
Doo doo doo duh doo doo.

Other Files

MP3 (demo)

sheet music (with melody play-back)

Lesson Plan

Songs like this one can be used during class meetings and/or in homework assignments. Either way, the song will be most impactful if students DO something with it, as opposed to just listening.

An initial, simple follow-up activity could be to answer the study questions below. A more extensive interaction with the song might entail (A) learning to sing it, using an audio file and/or sheet music as a guide, and/or (B) designing kinesthetic movements ("dance moves") to embody it. The latter activity could begin with students identifying the most important or most challenging content of the song, and deciding how to illustrate that particular content.

Examples of kinesthetic movements for this song, as suggested by Dr. Lekelia (Kiki) Jenkins, are as follows. When the lyrics refer specifically to melanin, make the letter M over your head (as in the song "YMCA" by the Village People). When the lyrics refer to keratin, make the letter K (one arm straight up, one arm up at an angle, one leg out to the side). In forming these letters, you can "pulse" the limbs repeatedly to underscore that both of these molecules are polymers (though only one is a polypeptide). If a lyric is relevant to both molecules, then don't gesture at all.

Study Questions

(1) Which of the two molecules is a polypeptide?

(2) Which of the two molecules helps keep water inside the body?

(3) Which of the two molecules helps strengthen the skin?

(4) Which of the two molecules absorbs UV light?

(5) What are the names of the cells that produce these molecules? Do these cells keep these molecules to themselves, or do they share them with other cells?

(6) Beta-carotene is yet another molecule that is prevalent in the skin. In your view, is beta-carotene more like keratin, or more like melanin?

(Answers may be found on the answers page.)