Favorites: Mind-Expanding YouTube Channels

Favorites takes a lighter approach to the material we normally cover. Each week, we will take you through a list of favorites—whether its moments, scenes, episodes, characters, lines of dialogue, whatever!—in bite-sized articles perfect for your lunch break, a dull commute, or anywhere you need to take a Moment of Zen. So, sit back and enjoy this week’s offering: Lindsay Stamhuis’s favorite educational YouTube channels.

If you’re anything like me, your time is precious—between our work lives and our home lives and all the commitments that lie along that continuum, there hardly seems to be a spare moment for what one might call “free time.” And maybe you—like me—love non-fiction; whether it’s a full-length documentary film or a book about an interesting subject, this is totally my jam. This is why I love YouTube! Generally, the “edutainment” channels available on YouTube are filled with bite-sized videos chock full of fascinating facts and interesting tidbits that are totally geared towards those of us with limited time and unlimited imagination.

10) Nerdwriter

What makes The Nerdwriter so great is the fact that its host, Evan Puschack, is so interested in the content he produces. Releasing videos once a week gives him the opportunity to delve into whatever subject areas tickle his fancy. This means that week-to-week, you might get a video about music next to a video about a historical subject next to a video about psychology next to a video about pop culture. No subject, it seems, is off-limits. It’s so cool to see someone so passionate about so much. I particularly love his video essay collection “Understanding Art”—a deep dive into a specific artwork, be it a painting or a film or the work of a particular artist. This was how I was first introduced to The Nerdwriter; it’s how I hope you’ll be introduced to him now if you haven’t already been.

9) What’s So Great About That?

Regular readers of 25YL will recognize Grace Lee of What’s So Great About That? from her interview with Cæmeron Crain in the summer of 2018. How did I first find out about this channel? It was her video called “The Treachery of Language” that came up on my YouTube feed rather randomly as I was doing research about David Lynch for my podcast. I quickly fell down a rabbit hole, consuming as many of her video essays as I could. Most of them revolve around pop culture in some respect—film, music, art, etc.—and they clock in at under 10 minutes, making them perfect for quick mental breaks throughout the day that hopefully teach you something valuable about our culture and society.

8) History Matters (formerly Ten Minute History)

History is supposed to be dull and dry, boring, dusty, relegated to the back sections of libraries and our minds. Right? Wrong! And History Matters proves it. This is a relatively recent discovery for me, but I swear to you I have watched every single one of these videos—which cover all manner of historical periods and events, from the rise and fall of the Roman Empire to the rise and fall of the Soviet Union—and I am always eagerly awaiting more. The animations are simple but effective, often hilarious (watch for that carefree prance through a field of daisies…), and make the ten minutes fly by before you know it. If you—like me—are a bit of an Anglophile, be sure to check out the English and British history videos!

7) Crash Course

Crash Course has been around for a while, as their hundreds of videos and 8 million subscribers can attest to. There’s literally something here for everyone, organised into nice, neat channels devoted to each subject area. Love history? John Green has you covered (and yes, it is that John Green). Curious about the economy? Adriene Hill and Jacob Clifford are your people! More in mythology? Check out Mike Rugnetta’s series. Sociology more your thing? Nicole Sweeney has got your back. And in such wonderful little packages, too—Crash Course has been one of my go-to channels for years now, and I hope it becomes one of yours, too.

6) TED Ed

TED is a mega-giant behemoth player in the world of seminars, and TED Ed is their education arm. With video lessons generated by teachers and educators from around the world, you can be sure that what you’re getting is quality stuff. From literature and philosophy to math games and riddles, if it’s something you can learn there’s a video here about it. I can’t count how many times I’ve referred my students to a TED Ed video, in class or for homework, because visual learning doesn’t get any better than this.

5) SciShow

SciShow is the brainchild of Hank Green (brother to John Green; they’re both co-founders of the Crash Course channel above) and Michael Aranda. Similar to Crash Course, SciShow delves into various topics, only with a focus on the sciences (my favourite content area is psychology!) With well over 800 videos currently on the YouTube channel, there’s no shortage of information to be gleaned, whether you’re into biology or chemistry or computing science or astronomy. At a time when science denial is so ridiculously high, we need more science-based edutainment, and SciShow 1000% delivers.

4) Psych2Go

What I love about Psych2Go is that it covers so many fascinating topics related to modern day psychology—falling in love, falling out of love, toxic personalities, high functioning anxiety and depression, porn addiction, etc—using the most adorable animation. Seriously, I’m 100% here for the aesthetic as much as I am for the welath of information presented throughout each video. But in all seriousness, this channel is a veritable treasure trove of fascinating factoids and in-depth discussions about the things our brains do and how we can better navigate our worlds when those brains seem intent on hijacking us…

3) Half As Interesting

Half As Interesting gets a nod from me for being exactly like me: full of all kinds of seemingly random and useless information that makes them really really good at Trivial Pursuit. (I always win Trivial Pursuit.) If you’re looking for something a bit more on the mindless-but-still-super-interesting side, look no further: Half As Interesting has videos on that baboon that ran a railway, illegal words, New York City hot dog vendor licenses…you name it, it’s here!


2) Numberphile

I used to be really good at math. Until about Grade 9, I was top in my class; I finished tests first and I always got 100%; I knew everything. And more importantly, I loved it. Then I hit high school and everything changed. I went from an A student to barely passing. I was discouraged and confused, and my teachers weren’t helpful at all. Looking back, I think it was because of that last thing—unhelpful teachers—that I really began to fail in math: my teachers were unhelpful because they had stopped loving math. If I had teachers like the folks at Numberphile, I’m sure I would have done so much better than I did. The passion and excitement these folks have for numbers make me giddy; I’ve learned more about mathematics in the weeks since I began watching this channel than I did in all of my primary and secondary education combined (can’t count post-secondary, though, and I have Dr. Alkiviathes Meldrum in the University of Alberta Department of Physics to thank for that! #BestProfEver). If you’re mathphobic, Numberphile may just change your mind about numbers!

1) Adam Neely’s YouTube channel is a music lover’s paradise. I love the way Adam explains the most complex stuff—like how to play offbeat triplets—in such a manner that even the most tone deaf, rhythmically-challenged person can understand it. But he also goes into some more musically interesting places, such as when he talks about synesthesia, or explores what the slowest music humanly possible could possibly be. If you love music or wish you were better at performing or if you just enjoy listening to people talk about their passions, check out Adam Neely’s channel.dam Neely

Written by Lindsay Stamhuis

Lindsay Stamhuis is a writer and English teacher. In addition to editing and writing about TV and Film, she is the co-host of The Bicks Pod, a podcast currently deep-diving into the collected works of William Shakespeare. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta with her partner Aidan, their three cats, and a potted pothos that refuses to grow more than one vine.

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