The Best of Beakman's World

Movie review by
Andy Davis, Common Sense Media
The Best of Beakman's World Movie Poster Image
A decidedly un-dry science show.
  • NR
  • 1993
  • 60 minutes

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this video is packed with fun, easy-to-do experiments and an extraordinary barrage of scientific facts. The wacky scientist offers accurate scientific explanations (about such topics as air pressure and the reflection of light) in simple terms, achieving clarity without sacrificing academic integrity. But beware, you're kids will want to do the science experiments -- and they need you there! The video is perfect for older kids and preteens, who will love doing the fascinating experiments at home (with adult supervision). The experiments will hook kids while they learn the scientific principles behind them. Families who watch this video may want to explore other scientific principles and discuss the importance of the scientific method: trial and error.

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What's the story?

Popular children's television scientist Beakman (Paul Zaloom) begins this compilation by encouraging inquisitiveness: "We can't have answers without questions!" The video is a series of scientific demonstrations in response to viewer questions ("How do rockets work?") and challenges posed by Beakman himself ("I challenge you to balance two forks and a toothpick on the tip of another toothpick"). There are a smattering of "fast facts" and a few role playing sequences in which Mr. Zaloom plays historical or fictional characters. Most of the experiments focus on physical science. A playing card illustrates air pressure by holding water in an inverted glass. Beakman shows us how to build a homemade oscilloscope and a camera obscura that can be worn on your head. Viewer questions are addressed in several modes. Verbal explanations are given with comic gestures, silly sound effects, and inane commentary from Beakman's daffy sidekick, Lester the Rat. In one segment, Mr. Zaloom plays the mythological character Narcissus with humorous vanity as he explains how mirrors reflect light.

Is it any good?

THE BEST OF BEAKMAN'S WORLD represents one of the better attempts at giving science education a facelift. Decidedly un-dry in his approach, Beakman gets the viewer's attention with his finger-in-the-socket hairdo and Brooklyn accent. He encourages participation with sensational experiments that require simple and relatively safe household items. While his demonstrations are often trick oriented, Beakman deplores deception, and always explains the experiments scientifically. "I don't do tricks," he says at one point. Then he explains how a flimsy drinking straw can be easily thrust through a raw potato..

Simple demonstrations impart the essence of the scientific principle, while more involved experiments broaden the explanations. The items required for each experiment are always listed. The only missed beats are two puppet penguins who give bland intermittent commentary from the peanut gallery. Despite the schtick that lightens the educational experience of this video, the intriguing subject matter and illuminating experiments stand on their own make this a solid choice for kids.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they learned from watching the experiments in this program, and try some of them out together.

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