What should the kids see?

From the vast quantities of free educational content on the web, Rion Nakaya curates a list of inspirational STEM storytelling in collaboration with her two children. Here she picks her favourite "not-made-for-kids videos for kids".

  • Thekidshouldseethis.com
    Credit: thekidshouldseethis.com

There’s no shortage of educational content on the internet, and with so many kinds of science being celebrated with online videos, it's never been easier to learn and be entertained. The challenge as a parent or teacher is finding that high quality content, and then making sure that it's useful and friendly for a wide range of ages. 

In 2011, I started The Kid Should See This to help with that challenge: to connect kids, parents, and teachers with smart, conversation-starting videos – about science, art, music, nature, and more – that probably weren't made for kids, but are still perfect for them. Yes, it's true that there are plenty of videos for kids out there, but they often include unnecessary wacky noises or simplistic narration that distracts from the beauty of what's real, and what's completely fascinating on its own. Why not share content that doesn't underestimate what children can learn or might be interested in?

With a special focus on STEM storytelling, our video selections are driven by wonder, enthusiasm, and that "wow!" moment. We also look for videos that can appeal to kids and adults alike, so that it's easy to build a shared vocabulary while spending time together. Parental involvement has a lasting, impactful effect on kids, and it's great to demonstrate to them that the fun of learning doesn't stop as we grow older. 

After watching a video, my kids (aged 2 and 5) may ask questions, we might google for more information or borrow related library books, we build or draw, and we try to discuss it more. (Sometimes the best conversations happen weeks after we've watched something.) So far, our favourite videos include DIY experiments, tours, documentary clips about animals, and finding out how the things around us work and are made. 

These are seven of our favourites: 

Domino Chain Reaction

Watch University of Toronto’s Professor Stephen Morris knock over a 1-meter tall domino that weighs over 100 pounds by starting with a 5mm high by 1mm thick domino. I think this one is especially tangible for kids because it's both intuitive and hard-to-believe.

Nanoflight: HD video of magnified plants and animals

Alien worlds? Tiny monsters? Beautifully constructed lifeforms in great detail? Watch how thousands of scanning electron microscope (SEM) photos are taken at different positions around plant and animal specimens and then animated together by German photographer Stefan Diller.

Departing Space Station Commander Provides Tour of Orbital Laboratory

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams records a fascinating, detailed tour of the International Space Station, a farewell of sorts in her last hours as Commander. The kids were riveted by this for the entire 25 minutes, asking questions about all of the equipment on the walls along the way.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Birds of Paradise

This beautifully filmed project is seriously addictive stuff. In a dozen or so videos, the 39 unique birds-of-paradise species are introduced for their unique dancing, sounds, and shape shifting. This series is one of our favorites.


2/7 Concentrated Solar Power plus molten salt storage (CSP+)

We're always on the lookout for videos that educate about sustainable energy. This tour of Gemasolar -- the first Concentrated Solar Thermal Power plus molten salt storage (CSP+) plant to produce energy 24 hours per day -- near Seville, Spain is a mix of adventure, inspiration, and foward-thinking technology.


Installing Moser Lamps for a rural family

One of our biggest "wow!" moments: In 2002, Brazilian engineer Alfredo Moser invented a simple way to bring 40 to 60 watts of sunlight indoors. In this video, Chilean Miguel Marchand helps to install DIY bottle lights, or Moser Lamps, in the home of a family that lives in the Andes.

Look Up! The Billion-Bug Highway You Can't See

To connect firsthand with many of the subjects we learn about would require special equipment, a spaceship, or travel to other countries. This video (also featured on the Ri Channel here) is one of my kids' favorites, and I believe I know why: to feel closer to the billion-bug highway, all they have to do to is go outside and look up.


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