If you live in New York City, you will have seen posters advertising “Scishow” all over the subways. What is it? Scishow is a series of videos that covers a range of science topics in an interesting way. Titles include “When you Burn Fat, Where Does it Go?” “Why Sex?” etc. The science covered is in depth. When viewers watch “Why We Love Sugar,” for instance, they will be exposed to an explanation of photosynthesis and the different sorts of sugar molecules that figure so prominently in life on earth—fructose, sucrose, glucose and more.
The videos are generally short—3 to 10 minutes—and move very quickly through a topic. For this reason the videos are best used to build teacher background knowledge or to show to students once they have gotten a firm grounding in the underlying scientific concepts. If I were to use one in my class, I would stop the video at certain points. I might give guiding questions and ask students how the question was answered, then replay the video if students did not understand. This is important because concepts are introduced quickly and not reviewed and a lot of new vocabulary is introduced.
That said, the videos can be a useful tool.
A few highlights:
Why Can You See Your Breath When it’s Cold? This very short video can provide a good review for students who have already learned of phase changes such as boiling point, dew point, condensation, etc.
Why do Atoms Bond? A good review of the way that chemical bonding works.
When You Burn Fat, Where Does it Go? This short video provides a quick, interesting illustration of the concept of Conservation of Matter
Why Does Ice Float? This not only provides a short explanation of density, but also explains why the fact that ice forms on top of bodies of water instead of at the top is so necessary to the survival of aquatic life.
In addition to videos on chemistry, there is a series on physics that explores the four fundamental forces of matter.
Another series focuses on biology and natural selection. Videos like “Why Ferns Have More Chromosomes than You” would be a great addition to a lesson on genetics. “Stem Cells” would be helpful to students who have studied specialized cells, and “Why Sex?” explains why the exchange of chromosomes that takes place during sexual reproduction (as opposed to asexual reproduction) is so vital to life on earth.
Finally, a series entitled “Great Minds” helps students learn about things like plate tectonics or the discovery of chemistry by hearing about the scientists who made breakthrough discoveries in these fields.
As mentioned, this resource should be used when students have already learned the underlying concepts. In that case, engagement will be high.