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Science Teaching Toolbox: 10 Tried and True Videos for Teaching Science

We have a seemingly infinite number of resources at our fingertips in this digital age. It can be difficult to wade through it all. I'd like to share some of my favorite teaching videos with you. They haven't all gone viral, and some of them have been around for quite some time. However, I turn to them time and time again and I think you will too.

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As far as using videos as a teaching tool goes, I believe that they should be short and never the meat of your lesson or activity. Good science is taught in an engaging hands-on way, not simply from watching a screen! These videos are meant to be hooks to get your students excited, catchy ways to remember concepts or reviewing what they have learned from an investigation. I have listed them in no particular order, but included the age group and how I have used the video along with additional resources. I'm sure you'll find many uses across any aged class.

1. Lego Man in Space

I use it for: Atmosphere lesson (5th grade Weather Unit)
Some of you may recall 2 Canadian students who launched a Lego man into the stratosphere back in 2012. The toy traveled with a helium filled weather balloon to an altitude of 85,000 feet before popping and tumbling back to Earth. Read more here.
This is a good example of using a video for something that you can't bring into the classroom or take a field trip to. After studying the different layers of the atmosphere we watch the Lego Man in Space video and try to determine where he is at different points in the video. Most students can relate the altitude of being in a plane, but not higher. It gives a good comparison to objects at different altitudes, plane cruising altitude, where Lego man's balloon drops and starts to descend, low Earth orbit of the International Space Station, etc. You can also use this video to introduce the idea of pressure and temperature changes at you move through the atmosphere, and the use of weather balloons in weather data collection. For other great weather resources, projects and links check out my post: "Weather: Authentic Science, Not Just Small Talk"

2. International Space Station Tour by Commander Sunita (Sunny) Williams of NASA

I use it for: International Space Station lessons (6th grade Astronomy Unit)
At 25 minutes this is by far one of the longest videos that I use, however, it is something I truly cannot bring to my students any other way. Sunny Williams shows the different areas of the ISS and answers some things that would be on your students FAQ list- such as food, exercise, space suits, weightlessness, sleeping quarters, and even the bathroom. Well explained, with a sense of humor.
We study briefly the history of space travel and then spend more time focusing on current events in space, with a big focus on the ISS. NASA has many additional resources for teaching/learning about the space station at "NASA Teach Station".  We watch this video as we are participating in the Sally Ride Earthkam project, where students can participate in ISS missions. See my earlier post "Sally Ride Earthkam: Be a Part of an International Space Station Mission" for more information about getting involved in this project. I like this video because it shows examples of options in the field of science and a female scientist in a leadership role. There are many excellent discussion points here.

3. They Might Be Giants: Why Does the Sun Shine?

I use it for: 6th Grade Astronomy Unit
If you are not familiar with the science inspired album Here Comes Science by They Might Be Giants, you should check it out. There are many catchy songs that help to teach, or you might just listen to it for fun if you are anything like me!
This music video about the sun is helpful in remembering some facts about the sun. The kids really enjoy it and I often hear them singing it outside of class!

4. They Might Be Giants: ROY G. BIV

I use it for: Pre-K/Kindergarten Rainbows Lessons
This is another song from Here Comes Science. This is great for learning the colors of the rainbow and all the kids bop around when they hear it. We often have to watch it more than once!

I use it for: 3rd Grade Recycling Unit
This is a brief video of a boy who visits a recycling plant and learns the process of recycling paper. As we don't have a facility nearby to take a field trip to, this gives the students a quick overview. It can be an eye opener because although most of our families are active recyclers kids don't really have an idea of what happens once the recyclables are carted away. If you are looking for recycling projects for schools, you might want to check out Terracycle, a company that upcycles items that cannot be easily recycled and gives schools and non-profits a nominal donation for the items they supply. Our third graders use this as a way to recycle foil lined granola bar wrappers.
If you don't already use PBS learning media, I highly recommend checking it out. This is a huge repository of video clips, mostly from public television shows like Zoom, Nova, Nature, Sid the Science Kid, Firefly TV, etc. They are short and work as great intros or ways to solidify content after a hands-on investigation. There are discussion questions and sometimes lesson plans included with the videos. You have to sign up for an account to have unlimited access, but it is free and they don't fill your e-mail inbox with anything. You can also organize and save your favorite resources in your account for future use. 

I use it for: Water Quality/Aquarium Unit 4th Grade
This is a short clip depicting a girl's trip to a reservoir and water treatment plant. We study water quality and test water for quality in 4th grade. I like to start by having students understand water usage and where our water comes from. As our population lives in a wide, semi-rural area, not all of my students' home water supplies are the same. This is a way to show another option besides a well and where the town water supply comes from. If you are interested in teaching water quality, I would recommend using the kits from the World Water Monitoring Challenge.  They are inexpensive and there is a citizen science element to the project.

7. Kids Health How the Body Works Cartoons
How the Body Works Movies
"Classic" How the Body Works Movies 

I use it for: 3rd Grade Human Body Unit
These are a series of silly videos that help to sum up information about the systems in the body. They have recently updated the series. I traditionally had used what are now the "classic" movies, but both series have their merit. They are quirky. I would recommend watching a video first and seeing if it will work for your class. Some of my other favorite resources for the human body unit are the "Hear Your Heart" lesson plan in More Picture Perfect Science Lessons a lesson that uses these great picture books: Hear Your Heart and The Busy Body Book: A Kid's Guide to Fitness. Another great book to include in your human body unit is: The Skeleton Inside You as an intro to the skeletal system. 

I use it for: 3rd Grade Materials Science Unit
These are video clips from an earthquake test house at the Structural Engineering and Earthquake Simulation Laboratory in Buffalo, NY. I like to end a house building project by watching these videos. The kids love them, mostly because there is some destruction, but they are great leaping off points for noticing how things were or weren't damaged during the simulated earthquake. The house building project I alluded to uses Jon Scieszka's The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and the lesson is outlined in Science Netlinks here.

9. Ok Go- This Too Shall Pass Rube Goldberg Machine

I use it for: 3rd Grade Simple Machines- Rube Goldberg Challenge
The alternative music group Ok Go has had a series of clever music videos. This definitely is one of them. This is a great way to get the kids interested in building their own Rube Goldberg machine. [Note: If appropriateness of lyrics is a concern, the only questionable line is "run like hell". I have never had kids notice it because they are so focused on the machine, I think playing it at low volume works fine.] For other Rube Goldberg videos, check out the Rube Goldberg website.

I challenge the kids to build a Rube Goldberg machine after we have studied simple machines for quite some time. I have found great success with the K'nex Simple Machine kits. You can get them as an all inclusive kit, the K'NEX Simple Machines Deluxe Set, or as smaller less expensive and more specific simple machine sets such as K'NEX Intro to Simple Machines: Levers and Pulleys and Intro to Simple Machines: Gears.

I use it for: Fun science- across the grades, particularly in years of the Olympic games
This is a great series of videos produced during the past 2 winter Olympic games. They cover a range of science concepts from physics to materials science. The kids are naturally excited about the topics. Definitely worth checking out.

Phew! So there is my list. I'm sure I could keep going, but that should get you started. Do you have a great video resource to share? Add it to the comment section below or e-mail it to me at

Post updated: 2/3/2016

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