Science Class Is in Session—On YouTube!

Crash Course Astronomy © PBS
© Crash Course Astronomy

Whether you’re looking for videos to catch your homeschooled teen’s interest, browsing for something to occupy yourself for a few minutes, or you’re a lifelong fan of learning, it’s always fun to tumble down the YouTube rabbit hole.

Thanks to some incredibly talented science communicators, you and your kids can dive into subjects like physics, astronomy, and more, and find experiments to take science off the screen and into their own hands. Here are four YouTube channels for those who wonder how the universe works—which is everyone!

Crash Course Astronomy

Crash Course Astronomy © PBS
© Crash Course Astronomy

Phil Plait, also known as the Bad Astronomer, is no stranger to the geek world. When he’s not busy with the Bad Astronomy blog on Slate, he’s often spotted at conventions like San Diego Comic-Con. Recently Plait teamed up with Crash Course and PBS Digital Studios for the new YouTube series Crash Course Astronomy.

Plait’s “f***ing majestic” voice (according to one impressed commenter) clearly and quickly leads you through topics like moon phases, eclipses, the basics of astronomy. Stylish graphics and high-res images make each video exciting and engaging for anyone who loves to gaze up at the stars.

Physics Girl

© Physics Girl
© Physics Girl

Dianna, an MIT physics grad, calls herself the Physics Girl. In her easy-to-follow videos, Dianna addresses everyday questions that you might otherwise not have spent much time thinking about, along with exploring the mysteries of the universe. Why is our image flipped in a mirror horizontally and not vertically? Why is the universe flat?

Physics Girl also shares her experiences with being a woman in physics, including her time at MIT, and chats with other interesting scientists in her field.

SciShow

© SciShow
© SciShow

Cathé named SciShow as one of her secret YouTube affairs a couple of years ago, and it’s easy to see why. Hank Green and other knowledgeable hosts share the answers to some of life’s burning questions in quick chunks, like why does mint taste cool and why we have baby teeth.

SciShow also dives deeper into current science topics, such as the recent measles outbreak, and host Hank Green even sat down to chat with President Obama at the beginning of the year. It’s easy to spend hours browsing the fascinating content of SciShow.

Sick Science

© Sick Science
© Sick Science

If you’re more hands-on than just eyes-on, or you’re looking for experiments to do together as a family, Sick Science from Steve Spangler Science is what you’re looking for. There’s no talking in these videos—just quick how-to’s for putting together eye-catching science demonstrations that are sure hook anyone with an interest in science. You can also find other science demonstrations by Steve Spangler on the channel, which is always entertaining.

YouTube is the New Substitute Teacher

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard

School, like most of everyday life, is at times boring and occasionally a waste of time. We can place blame for that squarely upon the education system and teachers, or share it with parents if we’d like to keep diplomacy in the PTA. But although it’s true that the adults who shape and deliver education as we know it are largely responsible for what we learn and how well we learn it while we are children, we have nobody but ourselves to blame for allowing ignorance to persist after we grow up.

No matter how dreadful your education experience was as a child, if you reached adulthood literate enough to use the internet, then you should find developing a passing acquaintance with basic science concepts both convenient and entertaining. The idea that learning should be fun and easy is so compelling that YouTube is positively swarming with video bloggers enthusiastically sharing knowledge.

Because I am a science enthusiast and a lifetime devotee of independent study, I’ve compiled a video playlist of some of my recent favorites in that genre. To eliminate some common misconceptions, the playlist opens with the definition of science. From there, it builds from some interesting basics about water and carbon, covers some of the science frequently botched by Hollywood and in other fiction, and demonstrates that girls plus math equals win. Then follows a musical interlude, but it’s all science, so it’s all good. The last few are a sampler of videos posted by universities and science publishers for viewers who prefer productions with bigger budgets.

Now all you have to do is watch and learn.

 

(This post originally appeared at the Science in My Fiction blog.)