The days of VHS and even DVD science videos have gone the way of the dodo. More and more teachers are turning to YouTube, Vimeo and TEd-Talks for getting relevant and engaging media for their science classes. Instead of watching hour-long videos, teachers are opting for the shorter, more topical and more engaging science videos that can be found online. Even better, these videos are free! What tickles your fancy? A four-minute video on asteroids, a simulation of mitosis or a demonstration of parallel circuits? It’s all right there at the click of your mouse.
The last few years has seen an explosion of YouTube Channels dedicated to all things science made by people who love science. Science geeks in the best sense of the word. What could be better?! They’re creating a lot of high quality content that deserves viewing in your classroom, but this horn of plenty can also leave most teachers at a loss. What teacher wants to wade through the fiery dungeons of YouTube looking for gems? Why…I DO! Just think of me as the Hobbit of YouTube. Lookee at the gems I’ve found!
It is time-consuming to search out and vet all the different educational science channels, so I have rounded up a list of the best ones for you. I have made links to each channel’s playlist on YouTube as that launches you to the most useful part of each channel. Below each link is a brief description to help you select which channels would suit your classroom needs the best. YouTube Tip: Turn on the closed captioning to get the subtitles. This is useful for all students, not just the ESL learners.
I have divided up these channels into 3 types:
- Science Lessons Taught Well – These channels contain lecture type videos that teach a science lesson the way you wish you could or wish your teacher did when you were in high school. They will help you reinforce and cover your curriculum. They are taught by actual teachers and the videos are usually longer, from 8-20 minutes long E.g. Video on the Krebs Cycle, Angular Momentum etc.
- Fun Science Tidbits – These channels cover topics in science but in a fun more pop culture way. These videos seem more like t.v. shows because of their higher production value. They are often shorter, 1-8 minutes long and can contain animations and edu-taining hosts or voice-over narrators. E.g. Videos on the Poop Cycle, Why do we have Baby Teeth? etc.
- Let’s Experiment – These channels look at the design, experiment and investigation side of science. The hosts are avid experimenters who will examine and perform investigations that illustrate various scientific principles. E.g. Videos on Homemade Hand Warmers, Extracting Caffeine with Methylene Chloride etc.
- Science Lessons Taught Well: Paul Anderson of Bozeman Science is an award-winning science teacher as well as the host of this video series. Now don’t worry if you feel bad about yourself once you start watching his videos; this is a natural response to the Bozeman experience. Faced with Anderson’s prolific videos, you might start to question if you’ve been dedicated enough to your job. Have you made even one video? Probably not, but instead of feeling bad, you can rest in the knowledge that Anderson has managed to clone himself to get the job done. That is the only way he could have made the hundreds of videos on his channel while still being a full-time science teacher. His channel is probably bookmarked on every high school science student’s browser, and if it isn’t, it should be.
- He doesn’t use any flashy animations, he just delivers some solid science lessons using 8-15 minute videos on AP Chemistry, AP Physics, AP Biology and more. Some of his videos can be used as openers to a topic and some are better left as review – you’ll have to watch them to decide. Brace yourself for some ego deflation as you check out some of his videos “Genetic Drift“, “Gravitational Mass” and “The Mole“. If you don’t have time to show these videos to your students in class, assign them for viewing as homework or to reinforce concepts.
- Science Lessons Taught Well: This channel is hosted and narrated by a biologist who is also a college biology professor. Due to a large demand by her students, she began making video tutorials of her lessons in 2012. Though she’s not on-screen the way Paul Anderson is with his videos, she more than makes up for it with the enthusiasm of her narration. Her 8-18 minute videos are best geared to senior biology students, though she does have a few chemistry videos available as well. Titles like “Redox Relief“, “Under the Microscope“, and “Blood Types: ABO and Rh” might become invaluable to your curriculum. As well, she says that one of her most FAQ is how she makes her educational videos for YouTube. How do you think she responded to this? Why with a “Making YouTube EDU Videos” video of course. Check it out if you want to learn how to become a science teaching YouTube rock star.
- Science Lessons Taught Well: I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that the Khan Academy is attempting world domination. Their goal is to cover as many topics in as many different subjects as possible and to reach as many learners as possible. If that’s not an attempt at world domination, I don’t know what is. They have a dizzying array of videos and a good portion of these are science related. The videos are voice-over narrated and are illustrated using a pen which depicts concepts as they are being narrated. Some of them can be very detailed and are best geared towards rigorous senior science classes. Titles like “Elements and Atoms“, “Introduction to Vectors and Scalars” and “Anatomy of the Neuron” might become staples for your science curriculum. If you would like a more organized way to browse through their YouTube videos, you can also access them directly through the library in their World Domination…ehrm…. Khan Academy site.
- Science Lessons Taught Well & Fun Science Tidbits: With 40 videos on biology, 46 videos on chemistry, 12 videos on ecology, 5 videos on astronomy and 7 videos on anatomy and physiology to date, this channel offers a lot. Each video is between 8-15 minutes long and would be best suited to grades 9-12. The video topics are often quite straightforward with simple titles like: “The Electron“, “Plant Cells” and “Moon Phases“. The host, Hank Green, appears on the screen and guides the audience through the lesson using a humorous delivery. His videos are interesting but he often speaks too quickly for maximal understanding unless you are showing his videos for a review. They wouldn’t work as well as an introduction to a subject due to the fast-paced narration. I believe Crash Course is trying to rival the Khan Academy in the breadth and depth of what they offer. Only time will produce a winner to this intergalactic battle.
- Fun Science Tidbits: From the same creators as Crash Course, SciShow brings you 2-5 minute videos that are shorter and more topical. They have a variety of categories in their playlist like the “World’s Most Asked Questions”, “SciShow Talk Show”and “Breaking News” along with the big staple categories like “Physics”, “Chemistry” and “Biology”. Similar to Crash Course, they contain on-screen hosts who throw in fast quips and jokes. Some examples of episodes include “The Science of Sugar Addiction“, “Why Do We Have Baby Teeth?” and “5 of the World’s Most Dangerous Chemicals“.
- Fun Science Tidbits: Created by PBS Digital Studios, IOTBS is taking a page out of the Crash Course handbook by using a bespectacled host to guide the viewer through all manner of science topics using 3-8 minute videos. Joe Hanson, Ph.D., has it one up on Crash Course’s main science narrator, Hank, because he doesn’t talk as fast as Hank does in Crash Course. Titles like “The Science of Game of Thrones“, “Whose Air do You Share?” and “What if there Were No Sharks?” will have you browsing this playlist for a while.
- Fun Science Tidbits: These videos are very short (2-5 minutes) and are animated using a whiteboard with voice over narration. Though the animated whiteboard method may seem to lack high production value, each episode is very carefully crafted so that the lesson sequence is very engaging and at a pace most students can understand and enjoy. You will find episodes on many different science topics with titles like “How Old Are Your Ears?“, “The Poop Cycle” and “We Were All Female.” Unlike Crash Course and some SciShow videos, AsapSCIENCE videos can be shown at any point during the unit, either before or after you’ve taught the concepts.
- Fun Science Tidbits: “Science stories about our awesome planet” is how MinuteEarth describes itself in its About page on YouTube. Using multimedia animations and voice over narration, these 2-4 minute videos attempt to clearly explain various phenomena on Earth with titles like “Why is it Hot Underground?“, “How do Trees Survive Winter?” and “What is Freezer Burn?“. Similar to AsapSCIENCE, these will be fun for your students to watch and will provide interesting extensions to your curriculum that won’t take up too much time.
- Fun Science Tidbits: “Cool physics and other sweet science” is what you have in store for you when you browse this channel’s playlist. From the same makers as MinuteEarth, it uses the similar multimedia animations and voice over narration to create 2-4 minute videos with titles like “What IS Angular Momentum?“, “Antimatter Explained” and “Common Physics Misconceptions.” Fun and well explained topics.
- Fun Science Tidbits: “Bite” is right. These videos are only 1-3 minutes long and give a blast of science as told through the eyes and voice of narrator Andrew Vanden Heuvel. He tries to explain how extraordinary the ordinary actually is using math and science. Check out “The Physics of Tennis“, “Form, Function and Chickens” and “Seed Dispersal“.
- Fun Science Tidbits: Host Emily Graslie works for the Field Museum in Chicago and her 2-15 minute videos examine the Museum’s collection of artifacts. This is a great way to show students some of what goes on behind the scenes at a natural history museum. Some videos might be a bit gory for your students so viewer discretion is advised. Titles include “Skinning the Wolf“, “Shark Fin CSI” and “Horns vs. Antlers“.
- Let’s Experiment: If you want a channel dedicated to science experiments that can be done in your own classroom, Steve Spangler delivers. In his Sick Science! channel, he demonstrates numerous experiments in physics, chemistry and biology. A great way to glean demo or lab ideas for your own classroom. Steve makes it look easy and fun with videos like “Homemade Hand Warmer“, “Magnetic Slime” and “Soda Can Jump“. Most of his videos are less than 2 minutes long so you can browse many of them without using up your prep period.
- Let’s Experiment: Darren Fix is a middle school science teacher that films all of his class demos. Take a look to see how something is done and then try it out in your own class. There’s nothing flashy about the production, just basic but short and essential 1-10 minute demos like “Sodium in Water“, “Water Electrolysis” and “Food Coloring Diffusion“.
- Let’s Experiment: Ben Krasnow is a science geek who likes to investigate and play with science equipment in his tripped out basement laboratory. Ben uses his bat cave to examine various applications of science and technology that cover electromechanical systems, chemistry, biochemistry and electronics. His 2-10 minute long videos are low production but can be very interesting. This is not for every class, but a physics, chemistry or technology class might find some of this demos and in-depth looks at different ways to use equipment interesting. Some of his investigations have titles like “Whipped Chocolate Made with High Pressure Nitrous Oxide“, “Extracting Caffeine with Methylene Chloride“, “How a Breathalyzer Works“. His videos are oddly addictive to watch if you’re into experiments. Be prepared to have your students compare him to Walter White in Breaking Bad.
- Let’s Experiment: Host Destin is the more upbeat version of Ben Krasnow of Applied Science. What the two have in common is their love of experimentation and videos that don’t skimp on some serious scientific investigation. Destin does not have a bat cave like Ben has but still manages to experiment, investigate and explain various science phenomena. His 2-8 minute videos have higher production value than those of Applied Science and they would capture the interest of a wider audience. Check out his “Slow Motion Flipping Cats“, “Amazing Honey Coiling High Speed Video” and “Poop Splash Elimination” videos.