Was Formula 1 in your syllabus growing up?
Probably not, but times are changing. As of this year, Formula 1 cars have made the grade, and will be appearing in public school curriculum. NASCAR’s Acceleration Nation puts your child in the driver’s seat with an inspirational dose of STEM education.
When you look at the speed and design of our racecars and their performance on the track, NASCAR represents a unique platform to teach math and science. Our goal is to make learning these subjects fun for kids.
Acceleration Nation isn’t alone in pushing for STEM education. NASA depends on it for inspiring future astronauts and space scientists. The U.S. Army has staked its future on it. So, let’s ask ourselves…
Why Is STEM so Important?
The STEM acronym breaks down into four disciplines: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. These four subjects routinely overlap both in classrooms and in the real world. Look around and you will see their fingerprints on every aspect of our lives. STEM aims to teach the subjects with an integrated curriculum and not as separate subjects. Guidelines stress hands-on, problem-based learning.
STEM education prioritizes active sub-disciplines like astronomy, biochemistry, biomechanics, civil engineering, mathematical biology, nanotechnology, neurobiology, and robotics – to name just a few. Combining these disciplines can offer outside-the-box insights to solve some of humanity’s biggest problems.
We need to be raising the next generation of critical thinkers and innovators; more, we need motivated teachers who can connect the dots.
But Why Is It so Critical?
“… Leadership tomorrow depends on how we educate our students today — especially in science, technology, engineering and math.”
— President Barack Obama, September 16, 2010
Reason #1 – For our children.
It’s the technology age. The U.S. Department of Labor charts STEM occupational details and ranks the fastest growing occupations with their median wages. It’s clear that STEM related jobs are financially rewarding careers for our children.
Reason #2 – For the world.
STEM is an American concept. The U.S. is scrambling to retain its technological edge. But it is equally important for the world. The economy is global now, and good ideas can spread to help the entire world.
Reason #3 – For ourselves.
At any stage in life, critical thinking skills could be the difference. Rote learning is outdated. Problem solving through interdisciplinary and collaborative ways is better, and will improve life at every level.
The Fun in STEM
That’s what the U.S. Department of Education says.
Teaching concepts of STEM at an early age is one of the little things we can do as parents. Maybe, not as qualified educators, but as guides with a hand on the mouse. You’d be amazed how much difference some well-crafted videos can make on your child’s life. You never know what’s going to be the spark of inspiration or curiosity that they remember for the rest of their lives.
These ten YouTube channels are among the best on STEM education. The videos are for a spectrum of learners and are meant to inspire interest and raise curiosity about the world and how we control it.
Why does water not always freeze when it is supposed to? How can you make any liquid levitate? Good questions to perk a child’s curiosity. Heck, it perked mine. Hank Green hosts the science channel along with others. As of October last year, the channel had over 2 million subscribers. Hank’s light breezy style demystifies science for us.
The channel moves through science news, experiments, quizzes, and even a talk show. SciShow was a part of YouTube’s 100 million dollar original channel initiative.
The one video to watch right now: Why Does Toothpaste Make Everything Taste Bad?
A new science video every week. Veritasium follows fun science channels like SciShow and makes it easy to understand the wonders around us. Since 2011, it has collected 180 uploads. That should keep you busy if you haven’t caught up. Derek Muller takes you places – from interviews with Nobel Prize laureates to the man on the ground with mistaken science notions.
It has often been ranked among the best educational channels on YouTube. The video below demonstrates that the simplest objects can move in mesmerizing ways.
MinutePhysics and its time-lapsed videos prove the value of visual learning. Quantum physics has always escaped me. But the videos should do Albert Einstein proud. Don’t believe me – try out the three videos on the Higgs-Boson particles. In under three minutes.
Henry Reich proves that you can teach the most complex science topics if you can simplify it enough. The videos are around 2-3 minutes in length, but pit them against a boring class lecture any day. MinuteEarth is a sister channel that talks about natural phenomena.
The one video to watch right now: How to See Without Glasses?
A video on human extinction wasn’t the best way for me to start reviewing this fantastic channel. But Michael Stevens made the idea a tad “palatable”. It was his quirky personality and facial contortions that kept me engaged. VSauce is about science and technology, and a tinge of philosophy thrown in. All wrapped in humor.
VSauce extends this educational content to VSauce2 hosted by Kevin Lieber. Specific segments like Mindblow bring the latest news in science and technology. Or LÜT which digs up some of the coolest and weirdest things you can buy online.
The one video to watch right now: Why Did The Chicken Cross The Road?
Math is the foundation of the digital world, and fields inevitably become heavily mathematical as we learn more about them. This makes math invaluable for anyone interested in a STEM education. Many of us tiptoe around it because of some childhood math phobia, but with the right instructions, math can be deeply rewarding. Who wouldn’t like to try out the value of Pi with real pies!
Brady Haran does just that as he interviews mathematicians and everyday people about stuff like Pi and problems with zero. Brady has other educational channels in his roster – Backstage Science, Computerphile, and The Periodic Table of Videos among others.
The one video to watch right now: British Numbers confuse Americans.
If math phobia plagues your child, let technology drive away this debilitating fear of numbers. Patrick Jones a free virtual tutor, and a damn good one. The extensive collection of videos is free and you can catch the entirety on his personal website. From Algebra to Trigonometry, no clip should be left un-played.
Math is a core part of pushing STEM education across the U.S, which has a serious math problem. The belief that “we are not good at math” can be broken with better flexibility in teaching and a better focus on fun. With math it’s practice makes perfect. As I have learned from bitter experience.
The one video to watch right now: Puzzle Problem – Bridge Crossing at Night
Brightstorm is a complete educational platform. The channels has thousands of short videos for all high school subjects including Math, Science & English. Many videos also cover test prep programs like SAT, ACT and PSAT. If you are searching for a specific topic video from the school curricula, try out the Textbook Video Locator on the website. You can surface video lessons for homework help or flipped classroom study.
The site is subscription-based which helps the student study without advertisements. The YouTube channel is open for all.
The one video to watch right now: DNA Fingerprinting
Educators constantly talk about bringing back the fun. These two sisters do their small part. Brianna (pink amoeba) and Sarina (purple amoeba) use animated videos to break down science concepts to their simplest. It’s fun, while still getting the details across intact. Why amoebas? Because they are easy to draw!
Visit the sisters at their site and check out the complete list of science videos. The channel isn’t that old, so there are a handful of videos right now. All are good.
The one video to watch right now: Mutations: The Potential Power of a Small Change
Make something with all the STEM knowhow under your brain. The bi-monthly magazine is well-known for DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects. It covers all ages – like Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show. Just 17 videos so far but they should inspire everyone to “just get out there and make something!”
The one video to watch right now: Rockets
Parents and teachers should head to the Educator Guides first. The Educator Guide is organized according to grades – from K5 to Grade 12. Or for informal settings, download the Guides Lite. These handy PDF booklets include lesson objectives and list of inexpensive materials. YouTube videos supporting each lesson are also included.
NASA eClips are short segments of 7-10 minutes which explain the real world connections between space research and natural phenomena. More than 230 videos explore the real-world applications of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or STEM, topics). The selections follow national curriculum standards as defined by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the National Science Teachers Association, and the International Society for Technology in Education.
The one video to watch right now: The Future of Human Space Exploration
Seize the day.
I have missed quite a few great YouTube channels on STEM education. CGP Grey could nudge the others on this list. And yes, I have left out Khan Academy because it is so well known. Collecting everything can be an exhausting exercise when 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Luckily, now that it’s all collected, you can kick back and work through it at your leisure.
YouTube is an opportunity to use its fantastic richness for education and inspire future generations to find areas of their interest. It can be science, technology, engineering, math or arts. It will also take parents, teachers, and communities to play their part.
Which are the best YouTube STEM education channels according to you? Let’s make a list in the comments!
Image Credit: STEM icons via Shutterstock