Even though it’s been 15 years, I’ll never forget a time right before a Grade 9 science exam and all of the “cool” kids were congregating in front of the doors waiting for the teacher’s permission to enter. One said, “Greg, I bet YOU studied,” and they all laughed. I remember thinking, “Yeah, of course I did, wait what was I missing?”
I thought science was fascinating. It was about exploring the world around us and attempting to dissect why exactly we are here. It was the first moment that I thought maybe people did not share this opinion and maybe others didn’t think science was “cool.”
It seems as though things are changing, and I think the Internet and YouTube have become important avenues for this cultural shift. I taught science for two years, and when the subject is taught in schools, it has to follow a very strict curriculum, one that does not take a top-down approach. For example, it asks 12-year-olds to understand what an atom is before they can have any comprehension as to why this information is necessary.
It is not designed to pique curiosity or be easily understood, and if you want a science class to be exceptional, it is up to the educator. A teacher has to go above and beyond, think outside the box and work extra hard in a profession that is already one of the most time consuming, challenging and under appreciated.
But there is something else happening simultaneously: Science and education have become extremely popular on YouTube. Our AsapSCIENCE channel has more than 3.7 million subscribers, all of whom form a mostly young, diverse group. As a channel we are able to pose questions such as “Which Came First: The Chicken Or The Egg”, “Does Playing Video Games Make You Smarter?” or “What If Humans Disappeared?”
When answering these questions, in short clips we can talk about genetics, evolution and molecular biology and educate the viewers without them even realize how much they are learning. And there are many other websites and YouTube channels that do similar things, fostering a passion and love for science and creating a small but growing movement in which science is shifting, and finally becoming “cool.”
The Internet allows people to learn on their own, and with the growing popularity of YouTube channels that entertain and educate, we are so proud to be a part of a movement in which studying for a grade 9 science exam can finally be … “cool!”