Tag Archives: Science education

YouTube channels and other digital resources for science education

In my classes, I make extensive use of the collective genius of humanity hosted by YouTube. There are literally millions of creative, intelligent people producing astounding, beautiful, insightful, helpful content online FOR FREE! (To be fair, there are also millions of people producing crap, but that’s a subject for another post.)

I subscribe to a number of cool science channels on YouTube. If you’re a fan of science, you’ve probably already discovered these on your own, but if you’re just beginning your scientific journey of discovery, then you should check out some of the following channels. They are all entertaining, educational, scientifically accurate, and generally fun. I use them in my class routinely because the curators of these channels are soooooo much more talented at inventing and creating engaging content to explain science.

I’ll post a few of these recommendations here from time to time as I work through my own subscriptions and as I unearth channels that are new to me. But enough of my rambling. Here are my recommended YouTube Science Channels of the Day:

Smarter Every Day: Destin is a science guy who simply tries to get smarter every day, which I think is a pretty laudable goal. He’s also got a presence on Tumblr, and of course he’s on Twitter as well. If you want to get smarter every day – even just a little bit – you should check it out.

Veritasium: Derek Muller is the master behind this great channel, and to quote the information straight from the homepage, “Veritasium is a science video blog featuring experiments, expert interviews, cool demos, and discussions with the public about everything science.” He’s also quite active on Twitter. Follow Derek to discover more of the truth in science!

My colleague and partner in the battle against ignorance, Matt Erdosy, passed along the following website a while back, and I’ve been able to explore it during the past school year. “The Big History Project” may not sound like a science resource, but the site labels itself as “A journey through 13.8 billion years of history,” and it includes all the major events in the history of the Universe. So it’s not like a History Channel history or a Mr Price’s European history class kind of history. It’s literally a history of everything. I’ve just started to scratch the surface of what’s in this site, but as I learn more about it, we will explore more of it in class, particularly in my 8th grade astronomy lessons.

I’ve also included a couple more science-y YouTube channels to today’s post, since students seem to respond so well to them. First up today is the very well-regarded Minute Physics. Minute Physics, as you might guess, includes a lot of physical science lessons broken into one-minute videos. It’s like Short-Attention-Span Theatre for science class! According to the channel creators, “Simply put: cool physics and other sweet science.”

The next channel I’ll share is Crash Course. Many of my students are already familiar with the Green borthers’ great series on YouTube. Crash Course doesn’t cover only science. There are 8 separate courses available on the channel, but of course in my classes we focus on the science end of things. Quick-hitting, entertaining, and loaded with resources such as external links, additional footage and explanations, as well as quizzes corresponding to the videos, this channel is well worth bookmarking.

Welcome to the new school year!

Welcome – or welcome back – to another exciting year of learning about science!

After recharging my internal batteries on an extended safari with my dad and brother, followed by a couple of weeks in Italy with my children and my mom, I’m energized for the upcoming school year. It’s time to get started on what should be an exciting, innovative, engaging year for myself and all the students in my classes.

We’ve overhauled the grade 8 science curriculum since last year, which means that this year we’ll be studying astronomy, chemistry, electricity and magnetism, and plant adaptations – a nice mix of sciences that will hopefully offer a little something for everyone.

Grade 10 science is broken into the three ‘classic’ sciences of chemistry, physics, and biology, with units on stoichiometry, sound and light waves, and genetics and evolution, respectively.

This year is particularly intriguing for me as I make the transition from teaching the Diploma Program’s Environmental Systems and Societies course for the past 7 years to my first year teaching IB Biology. It will be fun to apply some of my “teaching bag o’ tricks” to a new subject.

Let’s get started!

Cheers

Mr K

Genius Hour is Back!

Good morning! It’s been a long time since I contributed anything to this blog apart from some tweet links, but I have good reason to return: My grade 10 students have finished the latest iteration of their Genius Hour projects. They  chose between biology and physics and were given 20% of all lessons to work on a topic of personal interest. Below, you will find a selection of some of the work I’ve received.

A look at HIV immunity and genetics:
http://www.powtoon.com/embed/ew8K9zLRDug/

Sleep disorders:

Using the electromagnetic spectrum to communicate:

Albinism in Tanzania:
http://albinismtanzania.weebly.com/

Science History Rap Battles

Good morning.

Yesterday I posted a video made by one of my students about the sustainability of food resources because I thought it was a good example of what students can create when given creative latitude in the classroom. Then one of my fellow science teachers mentioned Tom McFadden, a science teacher who’s earned quite a YouTube following for his creative and engaging raps about science. Tom supports students creating science projects in other schools, and what he has enabled children to do is really quite impressive. He has a science blog here, and you can check out his YouTube channel here. I particularly like the science history rap battles. Here’s a particularly good one, which tells the story of Rosalind Franklin and the discovery of DNA’s double helix structure:

“What if I don’t believe in the Big Bang?”

Good morning.

During one of today’s lessons, I received an email from a student asking the question above. As a science teacher, I’ve encountered this question before, usually when we study evolution, but my response applies equally to other fields of science – not just biology. I think it’s important to remind students and families about the key difference between the scientific and spiritual realms, and we will address the student’s question in my class later this week. I’ve pasted my response to this student below, with the student’s name changed for privacy reasons.

Hi Mr Kremer.

I was just wondering, what if you don’t really believe in the Big Bang? What if you believe in another theory?
Thank you
Curious Clinton, 8Z
That’s a good question Clinton, and for a lot of people it’s a tricky one. Part of the confusion is based on use of the word ‘believe’ instead of the more appropriate words ‘observe’ and ‘measure’.  Beliefs don’t need observable, measurable evidence. Observation means using only what we can directly sense and measure.

Science is based on observation and study of the natural world. We come up with ideas to try to explain what we can observe, and then we design ways to test those ideas – scientific experiments. If the idea fails the test, we reject it. If the idea is supported by the test, we build on it and go deeper, adding more detail so that we have a more complete picture of how the idea/process works. We keep doing this over and over again, and we have other people test the same ideas, until one of 2 things happens:

  1. the idea fails a test, and we reject it as being ‘not correct’
  2. the idea continues to be supported by observation, and we continue to build on it

So within science, it’s not really accurate to say that we ‘believe’ in an idea like the Big Bang Theory, or evolution by natural selection, or gravity. Rather, we accept the evidence that supports these theories. These theories have been tested many different ways by many different people and have always been supported by observation – what we can see, hear, smell, or sense. That means we consider them to be true up to the moment when one of them fails a fair test. If one of them fails a fair test and is disproved, scientists will no longer accept the theory as a valid explanation for how the world works.

One classic example is our understanding of the structure of our solar system. Before people developed the telescope, which allowed us to directly observe the other planets and their moons, the Geocentric model (Earth at the center of the solar system, with the Sun and the other planets orbiting around Earth) was accepted as scientific fact because it passed all the tests available at that time. But once we invented telescopes and were able to accurately see that moons orbit around other planets and those planets orbit around the Sun, we recognized that the ‘Geocentric’ model wasn’t correct – it failed the test of observation. So we developed a new idea called the Heliocentric model, which has proven correct everything we have been able to observe so far.

At some point in the future, when we have better technology that lets us make even more precise and accurate measurements and observations about our Universe, we may decide that the Big Bang Theory is wrong. When and if that happens, we will reject the BBT and start using a new, better explanation for how the Universe began.

Does that help? It was a really good question, and we will talk about it in class soon.

cheers

Mr K

I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes from Neil deGrasse Tyson on this topic: “One of the beautiful things about science is that it’s true whether you believe in it or not.”

The best of the best

One of the things I love about Twitter is the sheer volume of ridiculously helpful and inspiring resources it brings me every day. With tools like Tweetdeck and Tweetbot, I get the best globally-crowdsourced information on science, education, educational technology, world news, and music – the categories most aligned with my personal and professional interests – on my homepage every single day.

Today Twitter delivered the following gem to my virtual door: “The ‘All-Time’ Best Science Sites on the Web.” The name is a bit misleading because the author, Larry Ferlazzo, links to some great resources in subjects other than science.

My advice: find a snack, click on the link, and spend the next long while exploring.

Mr Ferlazzo, I’ve never met you, but you rock!

Genius Hour in Chemistry

“Chemistry is, well technically, chemistry is the study of matter. But I prefer to see it as the study of change.”

-Walter White, Breaking Bad

My last class today was one of those moments that keeps me teaching. My two grade-level collaborators and I just launched a Genius Hour project for our Grade 10 chemistry unit – How have scientific and technical innovations in chemistry changed our world? – and some of the ideas our students came up with are pretty engaging. Check out this brief list of some of the more memorable proposals from today:

  • A discussion of the benefits and limitations of spray-on solar cells
  • Are methadone treatments for heroin addicts ethical?
  • How has molecular gastronomy impacted the food industry?
  • How has the development of cheap plastics impacted the lives of subsistence farmers in east Africa?
  • What are the potential environmental consequences of new-generation car batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles, and how do they compare to the consequences of internal combustion engines?
  • How has our perception and use of LSD changed, from a proposed Cold-War truth serum, to a recreational drug, to a possible treatment for psychological disorders?
  • A comparison of social interactions before and after the invention of indoor air conditioning.

I love the idea of kids exploring their own personal interests within the framework of a subject or topic. School should be more like this more often. It’s certainly less boring for the students, but it’s also considerably more engaging for us teachers as well. For one thing, I don’t have to grade 60 of the same tedious essay topic assigned year after year! Instead, students create videos and animations, write songs, and make public speeches à la TED talks.

In previous open-ended projects I’ve done with my classes, I have found that I am better able to judge individual students’ understanding of major concepts in science because we have many more two-way conversations, rather than the typical one-sided lectures common to so many classrooms around the world. Not only am I better able to assess their learning, but students’ learning goes considerably deeper.

For more on the Genius Hour movement in education, check out Chris Kessler’s blog, GeniusHour.com, and the video below.

Happy learning!

More Science Video Resources

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I’ve stumbled across some valuable resources this morning – I shared them via Twitter – and they inspired me to share some more science-y things. Here are a few more channels I follow regularly on YouTube, all of which are great for support and/or inspiration in your scientific endeavors.

First up today is Numberphile. Numberphile makes videos about numbers, and since science and mathematics are so inherently intertwined, this channel is kind of a natural pairing for a lot of what we do in our studies of physical science and astronomy. Lots of entertaining and fascinating stuff here.

Next is The Bad Astronomer. As you might guess, this channel focuses heavily on astronomy and space science. Mostly it’s a collection of cool informational videos that don’t seem to be organized around any one central theme – just neat stuff about outer space.

The Science Channel is a really broad, very well-curated channel dedicated to all the major branches of science. Check out their playlists to filter your search down to specific topics or subjects within a given field of study. Highly professional.

Finally, I’ll link to NASA’s official YouTube channel. Here you’ll find literally hundreds of videos assembled by a large team of scientists working on a wide variety of projects at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA.

Welcome to Mr Kremer’s science site!