Media Monday: Crash Course

I’m a fairly recent convert to the wonders of YouTube as part of my regular media diet, but like many converts, I’m now an evangelist. For my own work, I take advantage of YouTube regularly to watch clips from nature and science documentaries, with the BBC and NOVA as the gold standards. But often, it’s just a 5- to 15-minute “explainer” young learners need, and YouTube has got ’em by the thousands. Today I’d like to point you toward a couple of channels that specialize in short science videos aimed specifically at kids.

The Crash Course Kids channel is full of clever, colorful, animated videos on science topics designed for elementary-school-age kids at about fifth-grade level. What is gravity? What’s the difference between weathering and erosion? What do plants need to grow? The answers are here, usually in 5-minute chunks that are easily added into a school day or study time at home.  Host Sabrina Cruz is terrific— enthusiastic, funny, and proud to call herself a nerd.

If Neil deGrasse Tyson is the reigning rock star of the astronomy world, Phil Plait is its Pied Piper. I would follow Phil anywhere. His Crash Course Astronomy series is information-packed and addictive. The format of a host who uses illustrations and animations to explain a scientific concept is similar to that of the Crash Course Kids channel, but Phil’s explanations are designed for middle and high school students and adults, with lessons usually 10–15-minutes long. He covers things like cyclical phenomena in the universe, how telescopes work, and everything you ever wanted to know about binary and multiple stars but were afraid to ask.

Watch and listen to Sabrina and Phil, respectively, explaining different kinds of stars:

The Crash Course empire on YouTube was started by YA novelist John Green and his environmental scientist/musician brother Hank. It now includes courses in history, psychology, literature, economics, and any number of other topics, so if you like the science channels above, you may want to check out more. Happy watching!

Shelley Sperry