Science is so hot right now thanks to TikTok, YouTube and a rock ‘n’ roll band famous for its experimental music videos. Among the dance steps, memes and filters you find on TikTok, a thriving community of scientists – both professionals and rookies – are connecting users with a sense of wonder and curiosity via creative experiments. This week on School Stream, we look at how science found its cool again and share some fun, TikTok-approved experiments for all ages.
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Why does STEM thrive on social media?
Fun! Educational! Engaging! STEM creators, and yes, it’s a valid job description, enjoy robust levels of engagement on their short and information-centric videos. It seems the marriage of hard science with short, digestible videos is an ideal combination that appeals to millions of viewers. This is especially true for younger generations who have grown up looking for answers via online videos rather than trawling through a textbook. A large part of the appeal is that no interest is too niche or too specialised to get a ‘YouTube Makeover’. We’re talking about viral videos on everything from Mollusk Monday to protein synthesis, making biodiesel fuel from cooking oil to how game theory relates to the modern workplace.
5 great accounts to check out
- For those educators lamenting the demise of old-school research, (*raises hand*), help is here. The Encyclopedia Britannica you know and love from childhood has reinvented itself as a thriving account on social platforms like TikTok. At the time of writing, they have a healthy 209K followers, 3.1 million likes and a cute bio that acknowledges their history: “Bringing you the facts since 1768!” See their viral Frog Song video (a staggering 4.3 million views!) for a sample of how they deliver the facts in today’s social media space.
- Astro_Kirsten is a Wiradjuri Astrophysicist and Science Communicator who is passionate about sharing her passion for space and astronomy as far and wide as she can – and that includes YouTube. The space-related content on her channel is delivered enthusiastically, is easy to understand and packed with loads of pop culture references to keep the tone fun. Black holes, the rings of Neptune, making magnets fall in slow motion, and more are all covered here. She has just been nominated for an ACCT Award in the Digital Shorts category alongside Australia’s best-known scientist Dr Karl and Astro_Kobi, a fellow rising star in the science communication field.
- Is it even a STEM-creators listicle if we don’t mention Lab Shenanigans? Darrin Nguyen combines his background in theatre and biochemistry to serve up some of the most creative and informative content on the web. In between comic videos showing life in the lab, Darrin cheerfully and effectively explains biochemistry, how your immune system works, the science of spicy food and so much more.
- Renegade Science Teacher, Forrest Valkai, covers STEM-related subject matter in a way that is accessible and fun. From evolution to lemurs, oxygen, sharks, trees, space, rating skulls from the discount store (!) and more, Forrest does it all while gleefully debunking misinformation from videos with dubious scientific credentials. With 1.4 million subscribers and 29.6 million likes, Renegade Science Teacher is the Harry Styles of the STEM-creator world.
- If you need a showstopping video to get your students excited about science, the search terms ‘Mentos and Coke’ brings up loads of impressive experiments on YouTube. If you’re looking to create a calm mood while explaining the nuances of applied force and the properties of different materials, try the wildly popular Hydraulic Press Channel.
OK Go and Science
Rock ‘n’ Roll and Science are an unlikely pairing, but it’s the niche created and solely occupied by Los Angeles-based rock band OK Go since 2006. If you’ve spent any time on YouTube, chances are you have seen one of OK Go’s viral, hypnotic, science-inspired music videos. We’ve seen an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine, optical illusions, and The One Moment, a video that uses maths, physics and the humble flip book to awesome effect. Science teachers have been telling the band for years they have used their videos to teach concepts like gravity, transfer of motion, perspective, quadratic equations, parabolas and the importance of failure and persistence. The band’s popularity with educators has led to them partnering with The Playful Learning Lab at The University of St Thomas to produce curriculum support for teachers who are using OK Go’s videos in class. Who knew a rock and roll band would end up being some of the coolest STEAM advocates?
More information. Plus, resources!
The great strength of the internet is often described as its greatest challenge: there is so much information that it can be hard to know where to start – especially if you’re a time-strapped educator. Here are some of the science experiments and projects for all ages that have made a big splash online.
- We are Teachers has a great list of 15 experiments you can show your class and try out. This is a comprehensive round-up that has something for everyone. Learn how to put a candle out using compressed air, create fake snow, freeze something instantly or turn milk into plastic.
- Looking for inspiration? True or Fake? 20+ Amazingly Cool Science Experiments from TikTok is 12-minutes of viral, TikTok experiments set to music.
- Cool Science Experiments Headquarters is a great YouTube channel and also features this great listicle with a range of kid-friendly science channels on YouTube.
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