Summer has arrived on the heels of distance learning. It might feel like this year, more than others, your kids will need extra make-up work. Educational tools like workbooks or memory exercises can motivate some types of children … but they can also create a lot of resentment from those who prefer a different type of learning. Summer is a freer time when you can introduce alternate forms of exploring new information.
A squirrel video that recently went viral introduced the already popular, Mark Rober, to even more people. He used to be a NASA engineer for several years including seven on the Mars land rover, Curiosity. Now his popular YouTube channel uses his knowledge to have a lot of fun, build outrageous machines, and pass on a surprising amount of scientific content. These videos offer a great way for you to sneak in content with your kids without them resenting it. If you’re lucky, the videos will also inspire them to do experimenting of their own.
Here is a selection of the things you can find from Mark Rober:
1. The Now Famous Squirrels
Mark decided to test the ingenuity of his backyard squirrels by creating an obstacle course for them to reach a cache of food. They have to jump, weave, and avoid distractions in order to make it. The course involves trap doors and catapults. He also includes a cool breakdown of just how these animals employ complex physics to land on their feet.
2. Every Child’s (and Many Adults’) Dream Pool
In this video, Rober teams up with another YouTube experimenter, The Backyard Scientist, to do something awesome. They fill a pool with Orbeez, those squishy water beads that are amazing to feel. Thrown in with the awesome shots of kids jumping into the pool, he adds a great explanation of buoyancy. We see just how far a person can sink into this unconventional pool and why quicksand is completely misrepresented in every movie ever. You can even get another set of experiments using the pool from The Backyard Scientist here.
3. Proof of Germs
A highly relevant message that I showed my own kids can be found in this video. Mark runs experiments with glowing germ powder and a classroom full of kids. It demonstrates how easily germs pass from person to person as well as objects. It also shows us that we all touch our faces too much (along with a fun Star Wars reference that makes a lot of sense).
4. Crowd Sourcing Answers to Skip Rocks
Rober’s whole family gets to have a say in the video featuring a robot that can skip rocks. He walks us through his whole process of creating a new machine. The kids in his family help with the trials and narrowing down the exact specs that a machine needs. We watch the scientific method in action. And a rock skip something like sixty times.
5. When Life Gives You Lemons, Make a Battery
Based on capturing energy for the VW electric Supercar, this video walks us through several different attempts to create and keep enough energy to run the many miles of a race. It explains ion transfer and solar power, shows Rober working through failure, involves the kids in problem solving, and features a zip line … and lots of lemonade.
Summer will definitely bring you more time and less structure. Hopefully, these videos will add great educational content and a lot of inspiration to our children’s minds.