Video can be a powerful tool for classroom learning, and it’s safe to say that teachers have never had more videos at their fingertips than they do today.
But with so many videos on YouTube, how do you find the good stuff? You know, those perfect, one-of-a-kind, just-right-for-your-lesson videos–the ones that make you think, “Oh, my students have to see this!”
The best YouTube videos for the classroom are the ones that teach or, better yet, show something you can’t otherwise do in your classroom. Videos that are more than flashy attempts to spice up a chapter from a textbook. Videos that go beyond zany talking heads doling out CliffsNotes for the digital age. Classroom-worthy videos on YouTube shouldn’t be replacements for your lessons; they should be additions to the awesome lessons you already teach.
Whether they’re an intriguing hook or the spark for a thought-provoking reflection, the best videos for school bring the world and all of its wonder into our classrooms. See below for a few of our favorite YouTube channels with useful videos for your lessons.
For now, our list skews more toward middle and high school, but we know others are out there. Do you know of one that we should add? Tell us in the comments!
An engaging look at contemporary art, as well as art history through a contemporary lens. While not specifically for K-12 students, plenty of the videos here can nonetheless work in school. The best of them are shot on location and bring art from around the world into your classroom.
Art Trip — Video field trips to various art locales, from London to Tijuana to Columbus, Indiana.
Assignment Episodes — Sixty (and counting) episodes highlight various artists and works of art, each involving a related “assignment” for viewers.
As “Chief Curiosity Correspondent” at Chicago’s Field Museum, YouTube star Emily Graslie offers dispatches on a variety of natural science topics. Topics cover a range of (mostly natural) science content, and some videos have a certain gross-out factor. But Graslie gives the videos a decidedly friendly and personable tone that may resonate with some younger kids.
In the Lab — A behind-the-scenes look at what goes down in the Field Museum’s lab as the crew preps various exhibits.
Amazon Adventures — Ride along on a trip to the Peruvian Amazon to view life in the wild.
Updated regularly, Numberphile is made by people who truly love math, which is one of the best reasons to share these videos with students. Much of the math can be higher level — likely too esoteric for most kids. However, the friendly hosts also tackle engaging, off-the-beaten-path math topics that can make for some great conversation starters.
Pi — Includes the famous “Mile of Pi” video, wherein pi is printed to a million digits (seriously) and laid flat on an airport runway.
Dice — Everything you’ve ever wondered about dice and probability, and then some.
Celebrity YouTuber Hank Green and friends cover a bevy of fun science topics tailored to the curiosities of their massive YouTube audience. Overall, the channel’s a bit talking-head heavy and covers lots of standard subjects (chemistry, astronomy, etc.). However, plenty of other playlists dive into a variety of pop-science topics. Also: For younger kids, consider checking out the sister channel, SciShow Kids.
Quick Questions — Info-packed and short (most videos run three minutes and under), these videos explore everyday science-related phenomena, like “Why Do Your Eyes Get Red in the Pool?” to “What Does ‘Clinically Proven’ Actually Mean?”
Weird Places — True to its name, this playlist dips into the science behind some of Earth’s stranger natural locales.