Take Five for Family Engagement: Five YouTube Science Channels to Share with Kids

| December 7, 2014 | 0 Comments

Not all screen time is created equal, as we like to say, but when it comes to exploring science, screen time can be an excellent way to stimulate curiosity, explain how things work and begin to visualize the unimaginable. It is also an enjoyable way to spend time with your kids, discussing the natural world, investigating questions and learning together.

My son and his father often spend time together watching YouTube videos and perusing clips from science websites, especially when they are working on a new project and want to ‘do some research’. The projects often involve things exploding (or at least bubbling over in a big mess), so I appreciate the mess-free ‘research’ phase!

When our son, age eight, has questions, we try to figure it out together, showing him the basic process of how to find good information online. For young researchers, this process takes a lot of adult supervision and guidance. By exploring things as they naturally come up in family conversations, even for just a few minutes or two, we also model how to use technology in a way that emphasizes real world connections and strengthens digital literacy (useful for kids and parents, these days).

We encourage families to preview this content (we’ve included general age guidelines) and strike up discussions with your young scientist. Nearly every child will fixate on “why” at some point. In the 21st century we can satisfy that natural curiosity better than ever before, so don’t panic when your child tests your scientific knowledge! These websites are a great place to start, showing young kids that not only are their parents amazing at finding ‘facts’ but are also good teachers, especially when it comes to exploring values and ethics about scientific topics. Being part of this conversation with your kids is something you will treasure for both their education and your own!

Top 5 Educational Science YouTube Channels:

So, without further ado, these five science-themed YouTube channels are ones we highly recommend (including ages we suggest for viewing with or without an adult). We have indicated our best estimate for age-appropriateness, as well as a few comments from Zan (8-year old boy) and his dad Marc (44-year old programmer):

1. Minute Physics – Ages 8+ (Ages 4+, with adult supervision.)

This YouTube channel features short, science demos that include sketches shown over time-lapse, to explain physics topics elegantly, in just a minute (or two). Created by Henry Reich, a physicist, mathematician and filmmaker.

According to Zan: “This is all about the universe, space and earth in short animated videos. The videos are very quick and they add a lot of explanation and details that help even small children understand complicated things a lot better than you would expect.”

According to Marc: “This channel covers physics in-depth in a way that makes complex subjects … like Einstein’s Relativity Theory & Quantum Mechanics, accessible in a way everyone can understand.”

Where to begin? Try out this example about Einstein and the Theory of Relativity:

2. Minute Earth – Ages 8+ (Ages 4+, with adult supervision.)
This YouTube channel began in 2013 as a companion to MinutePhysics, featuring short, science demos that include sketches shown over time-lapse, to explain the physical properties and phenomena that make up and occur on planet Earth. The site features this quote from John Muir: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”
According to Zan: “Like minute physics but for living things like trees, bees, and why plants are green. Answers a lot of questions about ‘why’ life is the way we find it on earth.”
According to Marc: “A spin-off of Minute Physics (from the same source). It covers topics about biological sciences.” For instance, “they talk about the largest organisms, like a tree that propagated over thousands of acres or a fungus that spread over a space larger than the state of Oregon.”
Where to begin? Try out this example about genetic sorting for boys and girls:

3. Veritasium – Ages 10+ (Ages 6+ with/ adult supervision.)

This is an educational science channel on YouTube created by Derek Muller, an Australian-Canadian scientist, filmmaker and television presenter. Videos includes experiments, dramatizations, songs, interviews with the public, and other ways to uncover misconceptions about science, which is the focus of this channel.
According to Zan: “This is the only channel, of all the ones I watch with my dad, that show the scientist in more than one place at a time, like talking to himself. Sometimes he skips around to talk about more than one topic and it’s not animated; it’s set in the real world. I don’t always understand everything, but my dad helps me make sense of it.”
According to Marc: “This is about physics, science, and nature but done in a way where they first interviews people to get common misconceptions. This helps people think about the topic and really learn it.”
Where to begin? Try this exceptional video about why trees can grow so tall:

 4. VSauce – Ages 10+ (Ages 6+ with/ adult supervision.)

This is an educational series of science channels on YouTube created by Michael Stevens. VSauce is known for producing videos relating to various scientific topics, as well as gaming, technology, culture, and other topics of general interest.

Acoording to Zan: “A long video about one topic but it sometimes switches to other things, and has a very cool graphic at the end. You learn a lot.”

According to Marc: “This channel covers science topics with videos and narration, jumping from tangent to tangent in a meaningful and humorous way that engages all ages.”

Where to begin? Try this incredible adventure where you travel inside a Black Hole:

5. ASAP Science – Ages 10+ (6+ with adult supervision.)
This channel includes factual videos, including topics that some families will want to weigh in on based on their own values, like the effect of certain controlled substances on the body and sexuality topics. Created by two Canadians, Mitchell Moffit and Gregory Brown, this channel covers a wide variety of scientific topics. They have a second channel, AsapThought, which has videos that are meant to make the audience think.
According to Zan: “This site uses a lot of little pieces of paper to make a picture as they teach you. It is often twice as long as the minute-physics videos, but still really cool.”
According to Marc: “This site has a lot of fun videos for typical “Why?” questions kids ask, like “Why do humans cry?” and “What is gluten?” This site is one where a parent or caregiver should actively choose videos they want to share with their child, since the selection is very wide. The two guys who run the site are also openly gay (which we think is great), although this is not a focus of the site.
Where to begin? Try this video about lucid dreaming:

We hope you enjoy our suggestions and have a chance to Take Five with your Kids this Holiday Season …

Please let us know your favorite YouTube learning channels, ways to engage young scientists and any comments or thoughts you’d like to share:

Category: iPads in Education, Take Five

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of Digital-Storytime.com, an iPad children's book review site. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health.