For Chris Anderson, science has been a lifelong passion. He recalls an early childhood visit to Mohican State Park, where he implored a park ranger to let him participate in all the fun outdoors activities meant for the older kids. His persistence and curiosity landed him in a creek, digging up crayfish and learning about their habits and habitat—exactly where he wanted to be. Anderson has carried that passion and curiosity with him, first to a science teaching job, then to the educational blog, “Science Over Everything,” and now to Science Around Cincy, the YouTube series Anderson and his team launched last fall.
Science Around Cincy is an ongoing series of 10-minute videos, produced by students and faculty from Northern Kentucky University’s Electronic Media and Broadcasting program and hosted by Anderson, in which he visits local scientists and asks them about their work and the scientific ideas it entails. “We want to feature the work of local scientists, engineers, [and] researchers, and use it as a teaching tool for kids,” Anderson says. The series’ “secondary goal,” he says, is to expand students’ ideas of what a scientist is. “We want to kind of get that veil down,” he says. “Scientists are just people with an outsized sense of curiosity who ask good questions and write down their observations.” With that notion in place, kids are more likely to see themselves as scientists as they exercise their own curiosity about the world around them.
Episodes so far include a visit to the Cincinnati Nature Center to learn about native wildlife, a day in the lab with a frog cryobiologist at Mount St. Joseph University, and a trip to an equine therapy center that explores the psychology of trauma recovery. The series covers a broad spectrum of scientific fields and concepts, and even more episodes are in the works. “There’s all sorts of innovative people in Cincinnati working in all sorts of fields that people don’t even think about,” Anderson says. His hope for the series is to shine a spotlight on those local innovators.
In the midst of the pandemic, Science Around Cincy provides a fun way of learning virtually—like a field trip, the videos concretely connect textbook ideas to the real world in an enjoyable way. Science Around Cincy has also created shorter videos to explain timely topics—such as social distancing, herd immunity, and why washing your hands with soap fights germs—in ways that kids will understand. Anderson suggests watching the videos with your kids or students, discussing the ideas involved, and exploring what they found especially interesting. The key is to follow curiosity, just like a scientist.