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What’s The Best Way to Teach Science? | BrainCraft BTS

So there’s a question I’ve been trying
to answer for a really long time: “What’s the best way to teach people about
science?” I think about this a lot and I want to share
my thought process with you. Let’s start at the beginning… ..Too early. So I studied science, like psychology, biology,
even neurobiology, and it was pretty fun. I landed a job with Australia’s national
science agency, and I travelled to schools, teaching kids and teenagers about all areas
of science. And I came across some research, which found
that children have formed an opinion about science, either positive or negative, by the
age of 7. Which surprised me. So I was pretty motivated to show young kids how amazing science
is. I took workshops to kids in remote tropical
islands, I went to Papua New Guinea and I even gave astronomy talks in the middle of
Australia. More research has found that problem-solving
is a much better approach in education than lectures and memorisation. And since most
of my classes were hands on, I was pretty happy. And then… I discovered YouTube. It intrigued me that a five minute video had
the potential to reach millions of people, when I could only see a couple of hundred
students every week. But… is online education as effective as
place based education? And does one have more of an impact than the other? I pondered this question for a couple of years.
Also, did I want to put my face all over the internet? I procrastinated for a while…
I did a masters degree in science communication and then I decided: it’s time. BrainCraft
was born. And it’s been two and a bit years of trying
to be a better writer and animator and editor. I tried to do some interactive things to get
back to that “problem-solving” approach and I just made a lot of videos to see what
you guys liked. And then I stopped and thought… “What
is the best way to teach people about science?” In videos, there’s a spectrum of “edutainment”
– on the education side you have something textbook inspired, like Crash Course; and
on the entertainment side you have something that feels like a movie, like Vsauce3. So
– is one more effective than the other? I asked Will, my research supervisor from
my Master’s degree. He always has words to say. “That’s a hard question, because both of
them are really important. Now, I gotta say, one: they do different jobs. The story telling,
entertainment, documentary style is really about grabbing you and about saying why this
is important, why it’s worth listening to. The other end is, there’s a time and a place
for a textbook. Look, I think the gap and the hard work is to do entertainment that
grabs you and to say why something’s important.” Still, I thought I’d experiment, and try
something on the entertainment side of the spectrum. And on the quality side of the quality
vs. quantity spectrum. But… that’s kinda hard to do by yourself. This is when the YouTube Space stepped in.
They very kindly provided me with a crew “My name’s Ali Brocato and I’m the DP on this
production.” “My name is Lena Alkhatib and I’m the sound mixer for this project.” and
another stop-motion animator “Hi! I’m Jennifer and I am a stop-motion animator, I’m helping
Vanessa today” to help bring my ideas to life. I wanted to create a beautiful animation about
the work of a really cool scientist – Elizabeth Blackburn. I interviewed her first “Are
there any steps that you take in your personal life, that have come from your research, to
try and be a healthier person?” “Yes, yes! And so the work in telomeres, which then grew
into collaboration…” and then we got to work animating – for weeks. But why stop at one video? At the same time
I was planning a more cinematic approach. I wanted to walk through this four room set
at the YouTube Space, somewhat like Birdman, and explore memory and forgetting. I even
directed something, for the first time. ever. “Cool, have you had female directing mentors?”
“This is the first thing I’ve ever directed… I have no mentors. I don’t know what I’m doing!
I have no idea. Do you think it’s going well, Christopher?” “I think it’s going great!” And almost three months after I first wrote
the two scripts, I’d finished my experiments. But… “What is the best way to teach people
about science?” What were my results? Really, there is no one answer to this question.
There’s benefits to different methods of teaching and experience for different audiences. So there’s no perfect formula. But, in the
process of making these videos I realised that if you stop questioning things and thinking
critically about what you’re creating, you’ll stop learning how to improve. It’s just
like how scientists work! The process of science has so many connections to real life. For me, experimenting with formats was really
valuable in testing the boundaries of what I can create. No matter how old you are, you should never
stop doing experiments.

Reynold King

100 Replies to “What’s The Best Way to Teach Science? | BrainCraft BTS”

  1. Vanessa it seems to me your voice is a lot more soothing in your videos (big reason why I watch them) than it appears to be in the classes you give (based on the short videos) which is a lot more.. Teachery(?) And I think that makes everything more comfortable to learn. Do you think it makes sense, what I'm saying? Thank you for your videos.

  2. wish Tesla, Eninstein and Newton could be my teacher, or someone make a time machine and record such and make an AI for kids today to ask question about the science at their times

  3. A terrific behind-the-scenes, Vanessa! While some of us may want a simpler, more procedural answer, you conveyed the message that the best way to teach science is, perhaps reflexively, to take a scientific approach – which is questioning, hypothesizing, experimenting, discovering, and making sense of what really works. In the process, I loved hearing about your background and the birth of BrainCraft and glimpsing where you might be headed!

  4. you have a very bright future (based on the topic you chose to do research). I don't even want to say Best luck since it feels that you are going to rock… Also this is a very good video.

  5. although kind of a vague answer; I feel the best way to teach is to just spark their curiosity. You dont have to have all the answers, or even make things super elaborate. I feel if you can get them to wonder about a given subject than that is enough. As a teacher I feel you have the power to act as a compass to wherever, or whatever their "true north is." Life is about discovery give them the tools, instill curiosity, and courage. As a teacher you may never see the full effects of the ripples you cause in someones life; however the oceans tides usually start from small waves.

  6. I think it also heavily depends on how people like to learn. I came across David Butler, a guy who makes videobooks about physics and titling them "How Fast Is It", "How Far Is It" and "How Small Is It?". His style leans heavily towards the education side of the scale, but I loved how informative and comprehensive his work was. Some people may be put off by his rather dry way of presenting things, but I found that his explanations along with the formulae were sufficient to draw me in to the subject at hand.

    I think because you're doing what you're doing and steadily seeking ways to improve and reassess, you're doing quite well to answer that question. Keep it up 🙂

  7. Great video, and I want to thank you for talking to camera. Please DON'T ever consider using a second camera to show yourself speaking from the side. I know everyone else is doing it, but I hate it. I prefer the presenter to look at me when speaking, even if it means a few jump cuts make it into the edit: these are not an issue, I barely notice them. Don't change a thing!

  8. I've struggled with the same questions! I'm an environmental educator IRL, but I realized I might be able to reach more kids via internet videos. Do you think that YouTube is helping you achieve your goal? How do you gauge the efficacy of your work on your audience? Do you have any recommendations for a brand-new educational YouTuber? Great, thoughtful video – thank you!

  9. Congratulations on all of the accomplishments you've done!
    As for teaching, I was thinking along the idea of good vs mediocre art, in context of the 'Uncanny Valley', earlier today.
    If all the bare-bones are there and showing, things might not always come across as attention grabbing or entertaining. Its 'information heavy' or just bland reading/listening.
    However, as long as the art is rendered well into a style (audio, cadence, vector to get information across, colors/shapes, text), there becomes an aspect that brings the viewer/student in. Attention grabbing.
    But if the explanations leave room for missing data, the animation is something you can tell the animator was less than enthused with making, or the audio is poorly mixed and becomes irritating. You'll lose viewers and attention.
    Even if the solution to this problem may have simply been, stay at 75% vs trying to hit that 100%, because you'll end up falling into the 'Uncanny Valley' at that 90% mark.

    I've been loving the style changes you make from time to time between videos, and the emotionally joyful tunes you use. Keep it up!

  10. Vanessa, you are doing it, the content of your videos are amazing, you and the quality has been improving since day one. I think you, and others like you here in YouTube are really making a better world.

  11. This was such a great video, giving us insight to you as an educator and a filmmaker. I personally really appreciated the 'walkthrough' video because I do like the cinematic feel. (Your example with Jake Roper from VSauce3 is also a great fave, because of that). I know it won't be possible to always make videos like that, but thanks so much for the effort! Looking forward to more!

  12. Bookedmark and I'll share it tomorrow, because is really late here. I wanto people to see what I'll share. Great videos, questions and insights. You make really great work! This is great for many people: formal and unformal (outside an education institution) teachers, comunications and everybody in general! I never knew you put so much investigation and preperation for a video-! 🙂

  13. this was wonderful, the entertainment was the cake but the textbooks are the ingredients. if you have a passion for food.

  14. I love this project that you have done, but I especially like that you explained it afterword. So interesting to hear your thoughts on the matter.

  15. I think that the "best" way to do it is what feels the best to the creator. If you feel good about how you present a particular topic, you will be more excited and more exciting to the audience.

    Nothing will turn an audience off faster than someone who is obviously uncomfortable with what they are doing,and thus comes across as phony. Be yourself, enjoy making the videos, and people will enjoy watching them. (And if they enjoy themselves, they will learn more.)

  16. I can't believe that was your first time directing something, it was very well done.
    I would love more videos like that one.

  17. I think the best approach of teaching science was of Carl Sagan, he fascinated people with a perfect combo of philosophy and Science.

  18. You should totally do a series of videos of home-made experiments for all ages. "Because no matter how old you are you should never stop doing experiments" 😛

  19. Thanks for the video! It helps me a lot because Im recently studying for being a teacher, and previously I studied a Physics degree. The question on the video is a very big question, with many looks to consider, and forms of teaching. In two weeks I have learned a lot of things that I would never consider when I will be teaching. The experiment aproach is the most I like too. Congrats for your work! Sl2 from Chile.

  20. Vanessa You are a true hero of mine, you make science exciting and entertaining. I've really enjoyed all your videos and I think you have the right approach. You did hit on something in this video and it worries me that maybe YouTube alone is missing your target audience, preteens. It's so important that you get kids interested in science at a very young age. I remember picking up a book on the solar system at around age 7 and from that point on I was hooked. I didn't have the brain power to be a scientist but that never bothered me in the slightest. I still love reading, researching and experimenting. I have the heart of a scientist and it's been people like you that inspire me to keep investigating.

  21. Hi Braincraft Crew, first thanks for uploading weekly. A couple of videos of Veganism please please please please please please. Virtual hugs!

  22. You could get in touch with Derek from Veritasium. Didn't he write his dissertation about this exact question?

    For me it always begins with entertainment or an interesting question. I see some cool application of a theoretic topic (let's say neural networks playing Go) and if I find it interesting enough, I keep on learning about it with more textbook style resources.

  23. "What's the best way to yeah science" if you want people to remember things a song helps…. THERE'S hydrogen and helium then lithium beryllium boron carbon everywhere nitrogen all through the air with oxygen so you can breath and fluorine for your pretty teeth- (anyone wanna continue it? :D)

  24. Some old people (senior citizen but not all tho) thinks they know everything in life and just don't want to accept new knowledge.

  25. Whicj among magnetic field of earth and ozone is more responsible for saving us from UV from sun? Or is it that i got it wrong somehow? And if not, how is the two mechanism different from the other? And why doesn't visible light gets blocked?

  26. Do you have any plans to do "What's the Best Way to Teach Mathematics"? That's what I do, and I am always trying to be better, especially with courses students dread taking.

  27. Too early: You were too cute.
    BTW, the best way to teach is both Edutainment as long as the subject is entertaining. Specially, you've taught here that giving problems is the best way to teach…

  28. I think that education, at least in the UK, though from what I hear America too, is solely focused on memorization and information with no focus on problem solving like conducting experimental research, especially one's which are popular such as those done by Newton and Galileo.

    But unfortunately were trained to think like robots, rolling of an assembly line :/

    You have a far better understanding on what it's all about though, that there's so much more potential when it comes to teaching and learning. So what you've done and what you're doing really matters Vanessa 🙂

  29. Vanessa be like – i need to teach science, let me learn about animation, direction and making videos. Analogous to Newton inventing calculus to prove his laws 🙂

  30. I love this video it's very interesting well to me it reminds me of how we start to walk when we just start on this YouTube thing but it's all special in its own way keep it going don't change anything I love learning different things every day .

  31. As a future contributor in academia, hopefully, and in the sciences in particular, this is an interesting and, I would argue, one of the most quintessential question I, or anyone in my position, should be asking. I have a year left til I get my Bachelors in Physics and I've been doing some interactive stuff, and I have found myself gravitating more and more towards the aspect of teaching and relaying my knowledge to others.

    I think it is a good intellectual exercise to question how we learn things ourselves, which would lead to the question of how others learn, as well. I do agree with what was said in this video. There probably isn't a singular, all-purpose, cookie-cutter kind of deal on how to best teach science.
    I think giving it a go is a huge step. And you can't win them all, but whenever you get a kid inspired, and you see their eyes twinkle with such unadulterated curiosity, it is very much worth it.

  32. I don't think there is a one answer for all, it depends on your audience.

    Your videos and such (numberfile, physics girl, vsauce) are great for inspiration and very informative. I love watching.

    if you want depth though you need lectures and books. And i there is no reason that cant be entertaining. check Richard Muller physics and Donald sadoway chem. I loved watching and reading their material.

    if you want it to stick though you have to used it practically often enough. and good luck finding a job to pay you to do that.

    I think the problem is there are not enough science jobs.

  33. This discussion went almost like a discussion in ethics class. The no one all encompassing answer thing and the process versus substance thing.

  34. i haven't ever commented in this channel, but after seeing this video of yours … ! i felt to appreciate your effort 🙂

    You are really doing great 🙂

  35. I am an intellectual person in many aspects of life. I love books and college courses and educational videos. But I have found that YouTube is more likely to get me interested in certain subjects than a book would. I'm a giant history nerd who will buy a history book or sign up for a history class in an instant. It took channels like vsauce, brain craft, and asapscience to really get me into science, which I don't read about that often.

  36. I wish I had teachers like Vanessa when I was a student. Keep up the excellent work! You're an amazing teacher.

  37. Loved this video. I teach undergrad physics and math. I arrived to the same conclussion. It depends on the audience. Love your channel. Greetings from Guatemala.

  38. I think there's one very important thing about using the youtube medium as a form of education. That is that you can choose what to learn, when and in what way. There are so many channels that teach science, some do animation, some do drawing board lectures and some do the "talking friend approach". Some are indepth some are just overviews. And the great thing is, you can look at all of them in any order and in any format. School is horrible for learning because it forces you to learn specific thing in specific time at a specific rate and a specific format. There is only one way with school and it is generaly agreed that different students need different approaches which schools simply can't deliver. But the internet can! And since you can learn at any time anything, you simply pick the topic that currently interests you or that you currently need and you start learning while being naturaly motivated! This increases the attention span and concentration…

    But there are problems as well:
    1. since there is no specific order, you are not guaranteed to understand the content of the videos if not explained from bottom->top matter or if it doesn't link to other videos that explain the other topics first. A simple example is, you can't start talking about statistical methods without the basic understanding of probabilities. Or talk about digital circuits without the understanding of logic gates which in turn need you to understand boolean algebra to at least some extent!
    2. The content is not monitored and thus the explanations can be a bit wonky and misleading if not properly researched. This can usually be fixed by watching multiple videos on the same topic from different people, and form your own educated opinion on the topic.
    3.To some extent, there is still a language barrier. there are videos in many languages on many topics, but if there isn't one in your langauge and you don't speak any other, you are out of luck. You can only learn from school materials(or hope to find something textbased on the internet) which will be written in your language.

    Just to clarify, I'm only comparing the teaching methods of schools vs youtube/internet and not proposing to switch schools for internet. But I think we should learn from that youtube and the internet brought to education and try to build better educational system on top of that knowledge

  39. Edutainment channels: Matthew Santoro (Facts), Vsauce3 (Could you survive a fallout? "Cinematic" What if the World Ended? "Cinematic"

  40. hi firstly i totally appreciate your zeal of knowing and improving things,specially education which in my opinion is rotten through ancient educational methods , its a great inspiration for some of young like me. I HAD THIS IDEA FOR A LONG TIME IN MY HEAD as to incorporating subjects that focus on divergent thinking ,may be a little study of philosophy .i believe this would impart morals and out side the box thinking which is the actual need of the society right now .<JUST LET ME KNOW HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT IT AND MAY BE JUST MAY BE YOU CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT >

  41. This is exactly what Science is NOT, all talk an nothing in the end. And a subtle indication that your real intent is some kind of gender SJW project.

  42. Not gonna lie, but physical attraction helped get my attention to this channel. But charisma and passion is what keeps it. It's evident in your videos, in Carl Sagan's works, and whenever Neil Degrasse Tyson speaks.

    Just about every kid who doesn't want to be in class also asks "How is this going to affect me?" So showing people that also helps. Very few people want to hear how beak structure changes in a bird population. But show people our genetic and ancestral similarities with other animals and evolution becomes far more interesting.

  43. Many people , I included , had always the thought that those youtubers such as braincraft , vsauce , veritasium and many many others became what they are simply because either they were the firsts to give a certain type of videos and because they were kinda talented , but after i watched a veritasium video about how he started working and how he reached to what he is now and after seeing this video I feel a certain depth , those people have worked hard , tried different things , perhaps even failed and through failure managed to fix things and improve . personally i find it really cool to watch this kind of videos , so inspiring

  44. I wonder when we will be able to teach kids some truth in science, consider this;

  45. 7 years old huh, I guess all those Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes I watched when I was a young is why I have a Bachelors dgree in Physics then 🙂

  46. There is no real "best way" as people learn differently. I failed school miserably because I can't absorb or retain information via reading and the AUS education system doesn't offer any alternatives. However I can suture a wound, change an oil filter on a car, build a PC, turn pallets into furniture and much, much more thanks to videos on the internet. If I physically see something done then I can replicate it, if I hear facts then I retain them. I know so many things from so many fields all from watching/listening to things like Brain Craft and VSauce. So like I said there is no best way, only what works for the individual.

  47. There should be more ephasis on the scientific method. Breaking it down into a full semester. There is clear confusion when people compare science to a belief. plate tectonics, DNA, evolution and the big bang theory can all be misinterpreted as believes if people don't understand the scientific method.

  48. Just coming across this video now and really appreciated learning more about your journey to becoming an educational YouTuber. So helpful and inspiring to hear tips of the trade! 🙂

  49. The best way to teach people science is teach them there way of life in a very simple easy interesting way of what they need.

  50. I'm loving this video that you have shared with us. I will definitely share this video at

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