A Few of My Favorite (Online) Things

With the holidays, lots of extra stuff to do, and extra “help” around the house, I finally gave up on trying to put together an end of year post for the Curiosity Field Notebook. I didn’t give up on curiosity, though! In the calm moments of the evening, as I finished up the dishes in the sink, I found myself binge-listening to a few of my favorite science podcasts. In the moments before I rose out of bed, I snuck in a few minutes of reading some of my favorite education blogs. I even discovered a few other media gems as I worked on assignments for an online environmental education course (more on that in future blog posts).

As I reveled in gathering up new bits of information and ideas to think about, it occurred to me that you might enjoy some of my favorites, too! So I’ve put together a short list of some of the great podcasts, blog posts, and even YouTube videos that I ran across over the past month. All are connected to science and education in one way or another. I hope you find them as fascinating and/or useful as I do.

My one disclaimer is that – of course – this list is far from exhaustive. It’s just a bit of what I have enjoyed over the past few weeks. Be sure to include your own favorites in the comments section. I’m always looking for new dishwashing listening material, fun facts, tips and tricks, and jump-starters for curricula and blog posts.

Also, this blog post is not sponsored by any of the recommended blogs, vlogs, or podcasts. They just happen to be some of my favorites, so I thought I’d throw a little love their way and make sure that my favorite people (YOU!) know about them, too.

A Few of My Favorite (Online) Things (1)


My Go-To Listening Pleasure: RadioLab

Hands down, my favorite podcast of late has been RadioLab. This radio show, produced by WNYC Studios touts itself as “a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.” The combination of storytelling and science is what keeps me riveted. If you aren’t already familiar with RadioLab, here are a few of my top picks to get you started:

  • Staph Retreat – Find out how searchers are using the medicine of the past to understand the microbes of today.
  • Antibodies Part 1: CRISPR – A genetic super-tool has existed in bacteria for millions of years. Geneticists are just now beginning to imagine the possibilities: from fighting cancer to resurrecting dead animals, and the ethical questions in between.
  • Guts – This episode is older and it’s the one that got me hooked in the first place thanks to a Facebook post a couple of years ago by my friend Cassie, who is a science writer, and who also happens to be married to one of the show producers. She was more than just a proud wife posting, though. This episode is awesome! Don’t take my word for it, though. Even the producers re-ran it as a year end special, because it was one of their all-time favorites. You might skip this one if you are squeamish, but if you can handle a little digestive dialogue, you won’t regret listening.RL apocalyptical
  • Bonus video: Radiolab Live: Apocalyptical – Available as a YouTube video or as a sound file, this show, filmed in front of a live audience in Seattle is a fun romp with dinosaurs, destruction, and extinction. Spoiler alert! For all of those fans of Dr. Kirk Johnson (currently the Director of the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, past VP at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and paleontologist host of Making North America, a NOVA special), you’ll be thrilled to hear his cameo appearance near the end of the show.


Possible Runner Up Podcast: The Infinite Monkey Cage

monkey cageI’ve only just recently discovered The Infinite Monkey Cage from the BBC. I can’t make any promises about the rest of the podcasts, but I’m really enjoying Episode One of An Infinite Monkey’s Guide to General Relativity that was produced at the end of last year in celebration of the centennial of Einstein’s great theory. Episode Two is on the agenda for tonight. If I continue to be impressed, I’ll be downloading more, for my run tomorrow. Perhaps some long-time fans can point me in the right direction.


My Favorite Blog Post: What’s Going On Inside the Brain of a Curious Child

If you are interested in learning in all of its dimensions, MindShift from KQED News and NPR is an amazing resource that covers current educational trends, education research, how the brain works, and social elements that impact teaching and learning. I also like that they have a strong thematic focus on growth mindset and games. Here are a few of my favorite recent posts:


Teacher Tom: Teaching and Learning from Preschoolers

It’s hard to say where to start, as I haven’t read a Teacher Tom blog post that I didn’t like or that didn’t at least make me think. If I were a preschool teacher, I would want to be just like Teacher Tom. If I lived in Seattle, my kids would go to his cooperative preschool where play rules, democracy is practiced, and the value of children as human beings is recognized and celebrated. If I had to pick (and it is very hard to do so) here are a few favorites. But don’t stop there. The man wears a cape. You’ll want to keep reading.


The Brain Scoop

The-Brain-Scoop-Vlogbrothers-Field-Museum-SaleMaybe it is my own personal history with a nature and science museum, but I just love the short and oddly curious videos from The Brain Scoop YouTube channel. Emilie Graslie is the Chief Curiosity Correspondent for The Brain Scoop at the Field Museum in Chicago (although the channel began at the University of Montana Museum and earlier videos take place in Missoula). Going behind the scenes at the Field Museum (and the Amazon, and a few other fun adventures), Emilie’s quirky personality and broad understanding of science, museums, and taxidermy makes this YouTube channel a joy to watch. And you might learn something new, too! Each show is so unique that I’m not choosing favorites for this one. Start anywhere. If you love it, you’ll keep watching.

Best Animation of Science History

I ran across this funny little one-off about the forgotten role of one woman in science in the Opinion section of The New York Times. “Animated Life: The Living Fossil Fish” is short, animated video that recounts how Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer “discovered” the living fossil of the coelacanth. The video creators, Flora Lichtman and Sharon Shattuck, use a deceivingly simple medium to tell a wonderful story.  If I had a classroom, I could imagine showing this video and then challenging my students to create their own “history of science” short videos. Great. Now I’m kind of sad I don’t have a class of my own. If one of my readers takes off with this idea, you’ll have to come back and let us all know how it goes!

So what about you? What blogs, vlogs and podcasts have your attention these days? What should I add to my next “Favorite Things” blog post?