Online learning has made it possible for an iPad to become a classroom, and even the youngest students can benefit from the right platform.
While YouTube may have gotten its start with music videos and giggling baby clips over a decade ago, many individuals and organizations committed to education have since launched their own channels to deliver free content to students across the country. Here are some of the best learning tools available on YouTube right now.
The 10 best educational channels on YouTube
Pre-K: Mother Goose Club
Everything old is new again with this channel dedicated to reinventing
classic nursery rhymes.
Featured on PBS since 2009, Mother Goose Club is aimed at preparing children to read through exposing them to concepts like rhyme, which helps set the stage for faster identification of new words.
The goal is to get your little learner to become familiar with the cast of characters and start singing along, so be prepared to relive childhood tunes like “Row, row, row your boat,” well past the first day of kindergarten.
Phonics have never been more fun than with the cute cast of letter characters in the Alphablocks stories.
Episodes are smartly scripted to enforce the introduction of new words using the plot, and letters are individually sounded out multiple times to help your new reader develop good habits.
The episode focusing on the letter “w” will have kids tricked into thinking they are watching a cartoon about a sailboat race, with the real outcome being easy recognition of words like “wind,” “weep,” and “wait.”
Kindergarten: Brain Candy TV
To make sure your little learner is also on track with math, Brain Candy TV provides well-animated videos, covering concepts like counting to 1,000 and adding small numbers.
The 3-D visualizations of monster trucks are engaging, with plot elements like scores in a sport’s competition used to enforce the educational component. The YouTube channel provides a straightforward layout of other subjects available, including alphabet practice and the planets of the solar system.
1st-2nd grade: San Diego Zoo Kids
An important part of using YouTube as an educational tool is making sure that your little learner is exposed to a world beyond the screen.
The San Diego Zoo’s channel is the most convenient way to bring the wonders of the entire animal kingdom into your home, with amazing facts and clear explanations provided along the way.
To keep kids engaged, videos like “Rhino Crash Course” include questions from – you guessed it, kids. Animal lovers will slowly learn the basics of differences between species, setting the stage for more complex scientific observations down the road.
3rd-4th grade: It’s Okay to Be Smart
The “why?” phase might peak for most kids around age 2 or 3, but to create a true foundation of lifelong learning, It’s Okay to Be Smart teaches kids to keep asking questions.
Biology PhD Joe Hanson provides explanations to diverse topics that adults are likely to find fascinating too, ranging from “how does an igloo keep you warm?” to “how did the toilet change history?” Combining scientific expertise with some knowledge of history and culture, and topping it all off a thoroughly goofy sense of humor, Dr. Hanson will have young learners eager to impress their friends with facts they are unlikely to learn from an elementary school classroom.
5th-6th grade: TED-Ed
Using a format similar to the traditional TED Talk, Ted-Ed provides simplified explanations to complex subjects, often coming from leaders in a particular field.
As children become tweens and hunger for a greater sense of self, topics like “How playing an instrument benefits your brain” and “How the food you eat affects your brain” provide a basis for thoughtful decision-making in all aspects of life. Other videos strike an engaging balance between work and play with clever riddles that can even be used as a source of healthy family competition on a weeknight.
5th-6th grade: The Brain Scoop at the Field Museum
Watching a beaver dissection might not be of interest to every tween, but for the aspiring 12-year-old natural scientist, few channels top Emily Graslie’s videos on The Brain Scoop.
Using the collections at the famous Chicago Field Museum, learners can see research processes close-up, ranging from a tour of the gem room to a step-by-step look at skinning a wolf. The more graphic videos do include viewer discretion notices and a “gross-ometer”, so you may want to have your young learner work her way up to more intense content.
7th-8th grade: Socratica
With coding tutorials, periodic table memorization tools, and speed-reading tips as just a few of its highlights, Socratica is a multi-dimensional channel that learners will likely reference well into high school.
Whether your teenager is interested in learning Python at home or is looking for a straightforward explanation of an algebraic concept, this channel is worth exploring at the beginning of every semester. Bookmarking useful links for later use will be a major stress relief when it comes time to study for those first middle school exams. The video above on improving internet search results is the type of advice that can put a student well ahead of his or her peers.
9th Grade and up: MinutePhysics
While some of the content on MinutePhysics is aimed at younger audiences, for high school students trying to keep up with the latest developments in science and technology, this channel provides straightforward explanations to complicated topics.
Physicist Henry Reich breaks down subjects like the science of cloning and the debates around artificial intelligence, using clever animations combined with real-world contextualization. Both sci-fi lovers and followers of current events will benefit from scanning the channel’s latest additions on a regular basis.
9th grade and up: SoulPancake
By the time kids hit high school, they are often beginning to grapple
with many of the same personal and societal issues as adults. SoulPancake is a channel dedicated to demonstrating the importance of open dialogue and asking tough questions about life’s major challenges.
Not shying away from controversial subjects such as race and politics, videos on this channel include “Reverse Assumptions: What can you learn about a person without seeming them?” and “What it’s like to be incarcerated at age 16.”
What are your favorite YouTube channels for learning? Let us know in the comments.