TED-Ed Lessons offer a video library and the chance to build and customize lessons for students

10 TED-Ed Lessons to get students thinking


TED-Ed Lessons offer a video library and the chance to build and customize lessons for students

School days might seem as if they move at a glacial pace after winter break. The spring and summer breaks seem too far away, and whether students are learning in-person or online, they could use a bit of fun. Teachers can use TED-Ed Lessons to liven up long days and highlight students’ different personal interests.

The TED-Ed platform is especially cool because educators can build lessons around any TED-Ed Original, TED Talk, or YouTube video.

Once you find the video you want to use, you can use the TED-Ed Lessons editor to add questions, discussion prompts, and additional resources.

Use these TED-Ed Lessons for brain breaks, to introduce new lessons, or to inject some fun and engaging conversation into your class.

1. The strange history of the world’s most stolen painting
Throughout six centuries, the Ghent Altarpiece, also called “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” has been burned, forged, and raided in three different wars. It is, in fact, the world’s most stolen artwork— and is considered one of the most influential paintings ever made. What exactly makes the piece so special? Noah Charney digs into Jan van Eyck’s masterpiece.

2. These squids can fly… no, really
In 1947, explorers noticed a strange phenomenon while crossing the Pacific Ocean. Somehow, small squid known to live deep beneath the waves kept appearing on the roof of their boat. The crew was mystified— until they saw the squids soaring above the sea for roughly 50 meters. How and why do these marine creatures take to the sky? Robert Siddall explores the high-flying capabilities of cephalopods.

3. The life cycle of a cup of coffee
How many people does it take to make a cup of coffee? For many of us, all it takes is a short walk and a quick pour. But this simple staple is the result of a globe-spanning process whose cost and complexity are far greater than you might imagine. AJ Jacobs traces the journey of this caffeinated elixir from seed to cup.

4. The most colorful gemstones on Earth
In November 1986, Australian miners climbed Lunatic Hill and bored 20 meters into the Earth. They were rewarded with a fist-sized, record breaking gemstone, which they named the Hailey’s Comet opal. Thanks to a characteristic called “play of color,” no two opals look the same. So what causes these vibrant displays? Jeff Dekofsky digs into the rock’s shimmering, dancing displays of light.

5. Why the ancient Greeks couldn’t see blue
Why is the color “blue” barely mentioned in ancient writings and texts? Did ancient civilizations just see color differently? Were they all color blind? AsapSCIENCE digs into the neuroscience of how we see different colors.

6. Which type of milk is best for you?
If you go to the store in search of milk, there are a dizzying number of products to choose from. There’s dairy milk, but also plant-based products such as almond, soy, and oat milks. So which milk is actually best for you? And which uses the fewest resources and produces the least pollution? Jonathan J. O’Sullivan and Grace E. Cunningham dive into some of the most popular milks to find out.

7. Can we create the “perfect” farm?
About 10,000 years ago, humans began to farm. This agricultural revolution was a turning point in our history and enabled the existence of civilization. Today, nearly 40% of our planet is farmland. Spread all over the world, these lands are the pieces to a global puzzle we’re all facing: in the future, how can we feed every member of a growing population a healthy diet? Brent Loken investigates.

8. Who owns the “wilderness?”
In 1903, US President Theodore Roosevelt took a camping trip in California’s Yosemite Valley with conservationist John Muir. Roosevelt famously loved the outdoors, but Muir had invited him for more than just camping: Yosemite was in danger. It was part of a struggle to set aside land for both preservation and public use. Elyse Cox details the delicate balancing act of creating a national park.

9. The myth of the stolen eyeballs
Deep in the Amazon rainforest in the river Nea’ocoyá lived a school of particularly big and tasty fish. When the rains came and the water rose the fish appeared, and swam away as the waters fell. Villagers along the river followed them to a lagoon and set up camp. But their young shaman soon sensed they might not be completely alone. Nathan D. Horowitz details the Siekopai myth of the air goblins.

10. A brief history of plastic
For centuries, billiard balls were made of ivory from elephant tusks. But when excessive hunting caused elephant populations to decline, they began to look for alternatives. John Wesley Hyatt took up the challenge. In five years, he invented a new material called celluloid, which would become known as the first plastic. Trace the history of the material that ushered in the “plastics century.”

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