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Steve Spangler on Engaging Science

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
This episode originally was published on April 14, 2021, and reposted here with updates on May 10, 2024.

Self in Society Podcast #23
Spotify Main (with video) | Spotify Podcast | Podcast Page

Steve Spangler, host of DIY Sci, discusses how parents and teachers can foster kids' love of science and help children discover their "spark" in life. He also shares his thoughts on the development and future of online education and recounts his experiences as a pioneer in the field.

Time Markers
00 Intro
1:25 "How do you figure out your experiments for your show?" (With Special Guest)
4:03 The Spangler Family’s curious fascination with fake blood
5:55 How Steve talked a Colorado school into letting him bring in a hovercraft
6:50 The infamous soda-explosion video (Part 1)
7:51 Cultivating the wonder of childhood
8:28 A brief appreciation of fossil hunter Neil Shubin
9:09 Trials of fire and ice
12:03 The art of engagement
13:28 The infamous soda-explosion video (Part 2)
18:00 The first viral YouTube science video
19:20 The evolution of the internet
20:13 "Experiences go viral; worksheets don't."
21:15 The Internet Generation and low-tech retro
24:06 Connecting with students
27:50 Steve's magical childhood
31:52 "What can you do to get that child to lean in?"
34:38 "Every day counts."
38:27 Creating a kid’s "best day ever"
41:12 The Showman; "communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity"
42:46 “Time is irrelevant when you love what you do.”
44:48 Finding your "thing"
48:49 Peter Benson's spark, champion, and support
50:43 "The greatest day in AP English ever"
52:19 "Now they're on their course."
53:22 How does a public personality weather a pandemic?
54:14 The Ellen DeGeneres Show
55:24 "People were searching for those experiences they had taken for granted."
55:32 Moving school online
56:47 Experimenting in the online space
58:59 "How to humanize the square"
1:00:22 The future of online education (post-pandemic)
1:02:42 Steve's online classes with Outschool
1:08:20 Taking professional development online
1:09:24 The longing for live events
1:09:38 Weather & Science Day (with the Colorado Rockies)
1:10:59 On the road again
1:12:36 Museums as a resource for parents and teachers
1:15:04 Life's buffet
1:16:18 The business side of science education
1:16:59 How Steve married his high-school sweetheart
1:18:10 "I'm chaos."
1:20:05 Selling "Steve Spangler Science"
1:21:52 The evolution of the science video production
1:23:22 Moving onto TikTok
1:24:47 A parent’s appreciation
1:26:18 Wrap-up

Steve Spangler's main web page lists his various ventures. Xploration Station has information about Spangler's show, DIY Sci.

Spangler has several books out, including Super Cool Science Experiments for Kids! and 10-Minute Science Experiments.

Outschool featured live classes with Spangler. During the show I incorrectly said Outschool is located in Utah; actually it's in San Francisco. It's My Tech High that's in Utah.

Spangler's YouTube work is at Spangler Science TV, the Spangler Effect, and Sick Science. Spangler's famous 2005 viral video of dropping Mentos into soda (and soaking a TV reporter) was reposted in 2012.

Spangler is on Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok.

Spangler has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show many times; his final appearance (among others) is on YouTube.

The Colorado Rockies works with Spangler for STEM day. 9News ran a segment prior to the 2024 event. Spangler posted video on Facebook.

Wikipedia has a page on Spangler; Speaker magazine has a great feature about him; and Scranton's Times-Tribune features a lengthy interview.

During the show, my son says that our ear bones evolved from fish gills. Neil Shubin writes in Your Inner Fish, "We can trace bones from gill arches [in fish] to our ears" (p. 163). (Shubin has a great PBS series by the same name as the book that my son has watched twice.) But that's only the stapes; the incus and malleus derive from ancient jaw bones. Here's another article about the gill connection.

I never got around to asking Spangler about his contact with Don Herbert, "Mr. Wizard," Don Herbert. Many of Herbert's old science videos are available on YouTube.

During the show I mention the article, "Online Schools Are Here to Stay, Even After the Pandemic."

Spangler mentions the work of Peter L. Benson.

He founded (but no longer controls) Steve Spangler Science, which produces science kits and supplies.

A technical note: The audio quality on my side was sub-par. I did some testing with Zoom, and I figured out that what happened is that I accidentally used the mic built-in to the Apple earpiece, rather than my very-nice Audio-technica mic. That's frustrating because I purposely checked that setting. But somehow the settings reverted or I made a mistake. Anyway, now I'll know to triple-check the settings right after I hit the record button. The quality here is still okay, just not optimal.

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