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12 YouTube science channels to keep your kids learning this summer

YouTube is brimming with quirky, entertaining and educational science programs. As much of it is produced for a general lay audience, there’s plenty of appealing content for precocious kids and parents.  Here are some of the best YouTube science channels to check out.

1. AsapScience

Whiteboard illustrations explain every-day questions like if video games make you smarter and if plants think. During the Olympics, learn more with videos on topics like why Olympic records are always broken. Not all the content is kid appropriate though. For example, there’s a video on if sex affects athletic performance. The video merely acknowledges people have sex and focuses on non-titillating questions like how many calories sex burns and its effects on energy, anxiety levels and alertness, but parents might want to keep an eye out.

2. The Brain Scoop

From The Field Museum in Chicago, this channel explores science through the museum’s vast collections and exhibitions with host Emily Graslie.

3. DNews

Though not focused exclusively on science, DNews covers topical questions and current event issues like why zoos kill healthy animals, in reference to the euthanization of a healthy, two-year-old giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo, and the physics of figure skating, in time for the Olympic game. There are more evergreen topics like how carbon dating works. Parental guidance strongly recommended as there are some not-for-kids content, such as a study that finds women who fake orgasms also cheat. 

4. DoctorMadScience

This channel is produced and hosted by a 12-year-old named Jordan, who also happens to have autism. Jordan uses every-day household items to perform simple science experiments, like making boiling water freeze instantly in cold air and creating a fruit battery. Caution to parents: Jordan’s experiments may instill in your children the desire to explode things in your microwave.

5. Minute Physics

The channel illustrates common physics questions via whiteboard. Learn what gravity is, how magnets work and  the science behind rainbows. The show occasionally touches on other science disciplines like evolution versus natural selection and the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment

6. NASA

Of course NASA has a YouTube channel — it has several, actually, including separate channels for their various research centers and even the Hubble Space Telescope. Keep up with discoveries, launches, profiles and more.

7. Bill Nye the Science Guy

This television series from the 1990s wasn’t produced for YouTube, but we’re including it anyway. See clips from the charismatic host explaining everything from static electricity to how an eyeball works.

8. The Periodic Table of Videos

This channel focuses on chemistry with a video for every element in the Periodic Table — hence the name. In addition to the elements, videos focus on science news and related topics, like boiling water and exploding hydrogen bubbles. Host Martyn Poliakoff literally looks like a mad scientist.

9. SciShow

This channel is fun,fast-paced shorts on science news, history, and more. Visit weird places like the Waitomo Caves. Meet great minds in science like Dmitri Mendeleev. SciShow also produces a talk show and a series on the fundamental forces of physics.

10. Sick Science!

Science educator Steve Spangler has three related channels. Sick Science! features simple experiments you can try at home (with adult supervision, of course). SpanglerScience TV has more advanced experiments that mostly require special equipment. And TheSpanglerEffect features crazy experiments you probably shouldn’t try at home but are fun to watch. Let’s just say fiery explosions feature prominently.

11. Veritasium

Veritasium covers everything from why venomous animals live in warm climates to the question, if we can really touch anything (don’t assume the answer is yes). Host Derek Muller performs expert interviews and science experiments, debunks misconceptions and even performs a few songs (seriously, you will never think of atomic bonding the same way again).

12. VSauce

VSauce is my 10-year-old’s favorite science channel, which means exactly what you’d think. The focus is on the weird and the mind-boggling. Find out what does human taste like and why we kiss. (That’s about as racy as it gets.) Sibling channel VSauce2 focuses on general craziness found around the Internet and VSauce3 is about gaming.

Once you’re hooked, you may even want to keep watching your favorite science shows even after spring finally arrives. Most of these are updated weekly, if not daily. Subscribe and you and your kids can get a regular dose of smarts.

Adriana Velez

Got a budding scientist? Check-out these kid-friendly apps!

If you’d like your children to spend less time looking at their devices and more time observing the world around them, the answer may lie in those devices. An engaging science app may be just the guide they need to unlock their inner scientist. From astronomy to zoology, here are some of the best science apps for kids.

Alchemy Genetics (Ages 9+; Android, Kindle; free – $0.99) This game introduces kids to genetics by putting them in the role of a mad scientist tasked with crossing different species of animals. Start with four creatures and work your way up to unlocking 450 different wacky types of creatures. The game includes links to Wikipedia entries on real world animals.

Bobo Explores Light (Ages 8-12; iOS; free) Bobo is the children’s robot companion as they learn all about light, featuring 21 topics from the Aurora Borealis to concepts like reflection, refraction, photosynthesis and bioluminescence. Experiments, videos, 3-D holograms and articles bring these topics to life.

Kid Weather (Ages 6-10; iOS, Android; $1.99) Designed by a 6-year-old boy and his meteorologist dad, this interactive game gives kids real-time weather updates and forecasts, and fun science facts. Kids can choose their own avatar, which they dress for the weather. This app is a Parent’s Choice Approved award winner[MC1] .

Luna Solaria (Ages 12+; iOS, Android; free) This app will appeal to teens or maybe precocious late-elementary-aged kids. An interactive interface allows you to follow the phases of the moon and positions of both the moon and the sun. Find rise and set times, position in the sky, and more technical data like the brightness.

Project Noah (Ages 10+; iOS, Android; free) Got a budding naturalist in the family? Discover local wildlife and help contribute to research through this app’s three modes.

— Spottings allows you to learn more about a plant or animal you photograph.

— The location-based field guide shows you which plants and animals have been found near you.

— Field Missions allows users to contribute to ongoing research projects.

Sky Map (Ages 7+; iOS, Android; free) Point your phone to the sky and this app shows you stars, planets, constellations, moon phases and meteor showers.

Solar Walk 3-D (Ages 8+; iOS; $2.99) This app is an interactive 3-D model of the solar system and the Milky Way. Navigate through space, explore planets close-up, learn about their trajectories — and more. Solar Walk is a Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner and a National Parenting Publications Awards Gold winner.

A lot of these sound so much fun, you may want to download them to your own phone. The best-case scenario is that these apps open up the world to your children, and bring your family closer together as you bond over your discoveries.

By Adriana Velez, Photo: Wisky

Summer Fun With Giant Bubble Recipe!

Bubbles and summer go hand in hand. On a warm summer evening, my daughters and I love to head outside for bubble play. Bubbles are good, clean fun but do you know the science behind the bubble?

The lifespan of an average bubble is mere seconds, but there is a way to extend the life of a bubble. All you need is a few secret ingredients and you’re on your way to being a real bubbleologist.

Super Bubble Recipe
– 1 cup Distilled water
– 2 tbsp Dawn® dish soap
– 1 tbsp glycerin
– Pair of cotton gloves
– Bubble wand or pipette

A little about the ingredients –

Water is the single most important part of the bubble solution. Good quality water that does not contain high levels of iron or minerals is best. If you’re uncertain as to the quality of your tap water, invest in a gallon of distilled water from the grocery store.

When it comes to soap, Dawn® dish soap just seems to work the best for homemade bubble solutions.

Glycerin is the secret additive that will give your bubble extra strength. Adding glycerin keeps the water from evaporating and makes the bubbles much stronger and longer lasting. Try not to be shocked by the price on a bottle of high quality glycerin. Contact the pharmacist at your local grocery store for availability. (Note: Some bubble recipes substitute Karo® Syrup for glycerin due to the expense and availability of glycerin.) Also, like fine wine, bubble solution improves with age. If you can, leave the mixture in an open container for at least one day before using it.

Cotton gloves are needed not to protect your hands but to protect the bubble from the dirt and oil on your hands. Dirt and oil particles are the greatest enemies to bubbles and break down the soap film. The cotton gloves will protect the bubbles and help them survive a little longer. Bounce the bubbles off your gloves or sleeve. Then try touching it with your skin.

Standard bubble wands work great and they come in a variety of sizes and shapes for your bubble creating enjoyment. You can use all kinds of household items for bubble wands. Spatulas or slotted spoons make fun bubbles. Pipettes with the tip of the bulb end cut off are fun individual bubble blowers. Be creative and look around your home to find some items that you think will work and experiment. It’s part of the fun.

Some interesting scientific information on bubbles –

Product Pick: Kids can make their own soda (and have fun doing it) with Soda Stream

My mom used to act like a can of pop (yes, I say pop – go ahead and psychoanalyze where I’m from because I don’t call it “soda” or “coke”) was a super treat. We only got one every once in a while or on special occasions. And most definitely, we were not allowed to act silly with it – like blow bubbles into the cup.  (I know EVERYONE else was allowed to do that!) I have carried much of that mindset into my life – albeit a bit more relaxed because we live in 2014 when we swing by the fast food joints much more often than I would personally desire.

I recently received the new Soda Stream source to review. This slick little unit is pretty cute (and doesn’t take a lot of counter space) – it looks pretty slick. Plus it means that we no longer have to take bottles back and forth from the car and to the recycling bins. It’s all in one simple easy re-usable unit. It also means that you save a ton of money – making your own soda (with water) is way less expensive than buying all the cans of soda just one flavor bottle can make!

It is so simple and easy to use that my 12-year-old daughter was showing me how to do it it. You just snap to lock the bottle in and then push the “carbonating block” (which is pretty much the front of the machine) down until it lights up to indicate how much fizz it’s adding to the water. There are three settings for fizz (light, medium, and high). For carbonated water you do not need to anything to it. For soda, you add flavoring then gently roll the bottle until the flavor is mixed in. (Don’t shake it – opening it after shaking will just cause a giant mess – we “accidentally” tried it, which the 12-year-old then got to clean up).

There are over 60 flavors to choose from – cola, diet, gingerale, lemon-lime, caffeine free, cherry cola, cosmopolitan (Ladies Night!), energy drinks, and Dr. Pete among others! We are still having fun experimenting. We are trying to come up with the perfect treat to serve at our Superbowl Party. But our FAVES are Country Time Pink Lemonade and Ocean Spray Cranberry.

Not only are we having far more pop than mom would be proud of  but, we are also being mad scientists with flavoring it and most definitely blowing bubbles into it! Anything you think we should add in? What should be in our own version of “Orange Crush” (Go Broncos!)? What flavor is “Superbowl Soda”?

The Soda Stream is available at Target, WalMart, Ace Hardware, William Sonoma, Sam’s Club, Kohl’s, Staples, Best Buy, JC Penney and Macy’s. The models range from $79.99 to $199 depending on the model you purchase (the Source is $99.95) and the flavorings cost between $5 and $8.

Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition Rockets into Denver

Picture this: It’s a major holiday. You have all your best china and crystal laid out on a beautifully set table. Candles flicker. Everyone smiles in anticipation as you place a golden turkey in the center. The dog in the corner is drooling. Then, without warning, you grab the tablecloth and yank. Will the big day be ruined or will you be the best holiday hostess ever with your cool trick?

Thanks to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, you can practice this skill and learn the science behind it. From now through January 5th, 2014, the DMNS is hosting Mythbusters: The Explosive Exhibition. The wildly popular Discovery Channel show is now a hands-on, crazily fun experience for the entire family.

In the Blueprint Room, fans of the show will recognize 60 actual props, machines, and contraptions used in the long-running hit. Some of the most legendary items Adam, Jamie, and the gang built are on display, whimsically arranged. Flip through the iconic blueprints used to construct memorable machines. Relive some of the most popular shows. Adam’s jet pack, the buried-alive coffin, the duct tape canoe, and the paint bomb are just a few of the artifacts you might recognize.

DIY for all ages: NoCo Mini Maker Faire gets kids into science Oct. 5

Think of the NoCo Mini Maker Faire on Oct. 5 as a combination of robotics, creative problem-solving, DIY projects and a nerdy version of the Pinewood Derby.

“It’s all of those things wrapped into one,” says organizer Elizabeth Weiland.

She decided to organize the event as a way to meet others with similar interests in science, engineering and problem-solving.

Such fairs have become popular across the U.S. As Weiland made the rounds of potential exhibitors and participants for her own, the response astonished her.

The sky’s not the limit: New IMAX and Planetarium shows unveiled

You think the wind was bad last month? Then you don’t know about the 1000 mph winds on Jupiter. You remember that below zero cold spell we had in 2011? That would be a heatwave on Uranus. Did that Superbowl pot of chili lead to some odiferous effects in your family last week? Think about living on Titan, Saturn’s moon, which has rivers of liquid methane.

These are just a few of the factoids my children and I learned recently at a showing of The Wildest Weather in the Solar System.

Three new IMAX and Planetarium shows opened recently at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, giving you three new chances to go geek with your kids.

Weather Window

Choose a “weather window” in your house. Label it to remind yourself and your kids. Maybe somewhere near your eating area.

Post a large thermometer outside. Put up a windsock.

Observe. Is it sunny, cloudy, partly cloudy, rainy, or snowy? (Parents, you can talk about what happens to your kids when the barometer changes. Wacko!) Talk about the weather, the temperature and the wind.
Read the newspaper for the weather forecast. Teach your child where the weather section is located. Show them how to read the 5 day forecast, the high and low, and the weather map.

Weather Picture Books:
Maisy’s Wonderful Weather Book by Lucy Cousins
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballsby Judi Barrett

Weather activities for young kids:

  • Dress your self — choose the best clothes for the weather.
  • Draw a picture of someone (you?) dressed appropriately for the weather.
  • Dress a doll or stuffed animal for the weather.
  • Online game (dress a bear)

Weather activities for older Kids: