Backyard Science

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Backyard Science TV Poster Image
Fun Australian science show gives kids permission to DIY.

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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Educational value

Viewers will learn about all sorts of scientific properties: magnetic fields, mechanical forces, the interaction between acids and bases. Colorful graphics help explain complicated ideas, while the show's hosts explain things in the simplest terms, with great enthusiasm. 

Positive messages

The Backyard Science kids frequently stop and admire their work: "This is cool!" "I've got the magic touch!" This transmits a sense of excitement about science, and pride in accomplishments to young viewers. Scientists are thoughtful about their materials, too -- one experimenter doesn't want to try a trick that might smash his mother's dinner dishes; a messy experiment is moved from the porch to the garden. 

Positive role models & representations

The same actors perform experiments on and host each show, so viewers come to know them in a limited way --they're all excited about the possibilities of science and willing to try new things. Experiments are frequently performed in pairs, with the kids trying to come up with a scientific way to work around a limitation. The cast boasts great racial and ethnic diversity. 

Violence & scariness

Experiments that might cause injury are rare; young experimenters wear safety gear like goggles for them. The show points out that some aspects of experiments should be done with an adult's help. 

Sexy stuff
Language

The very occasional mild oath: "Darned magic." Or "the boys say I can't play cricket because I'm a girl. That's silly!" 

Consumerism

Brand names of materials like vinegar, baking soda, pencils, etc. that are used in experiments are concealed. 

Drinking, drugs & smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Backyard Science is an educational show that focuses on scientific concepts that will interest kids. Examples include: how to make glue out of milk, or what happens when you hit a pool ball with a cue. All experiments are performed by kids, and use typical materials found around the house: vinegar, baking soda, pencils, and paperclips. Experimenters are excited about the possibilities of science, willing to try new things, and frequently stop to admire their work. If there's any chance of injury, experimenters don safety gear like goggles; some parts of experiments are done only with an adult's help. Kids utter the occasional very mild oath: "Darned magic." Viewers will learn about all sorts of scientific properties, with enthusiastic adult hosts and colorful graphics explaining complicated ideas in terms kids can grasp. 

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What's the story?

Science doesn't just take place in labs with burners and beakers. In fact, when the young scientists on BACKYARD SCIENCE find themselves with a problem, they use the most practical everyday materials to solve their scientific dilemmas: salt, pencils, cardboard, magnets, paperclips. A friend can't show up for your puppet performance? No problem -- use a crankshaft to make a mechanical puppet show! Wondering why melting ice doesn't make the banks of the nearby lake overflow? Perform an experiment on your own front porch with a glass of slushy ice and water. The series is hosted by grownups Tarun Victor Gordon and Dana Kronental.

Is it any good?

Science can be found in dry, dusty textbooks, but why settle for that, when vibrant kids' shows like this Australian import makes everyday science so fun? Every young experimenter on Backyard Science starts with a problem to solve: A friend can't make it for a puppet show; it's mom's birthday but there's no glue left to make her a card. Surprise! Science can solve that problem! The kids swing into action, gathering easy-to-source materials and rigging a solution while Dana and Tarun explain the scientific concepts behind it. For instance, the puppeteers use a crankshaft to operate their puppets mechanically, just like a crankshaft in your car engine transforms the up-and-down motion of pistons into rotations that turn the wheels. The young scientists are excited about what they make, and careful to explain each step -- viewers at home will be inspired to make crystals, try out a homemade mouth-powered spray gun, and turn magnets loose on iron filings. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • How do the Backyard Scientists demonstrate curiosity in their experiments? Is curiosity an important quality for scientists? What other character strengths are helpful?

  • Why does this show choose to demonstrate scientific properties that you can see rather than taste, feel, or smell? Consider some experiments or scientific concepts that would be difficult, impossible, or boring to show on TV. 

  • Why are the hosts of this show older people, yet all the experiments are performed by young people? Do you think this show is signaling something by having only young people doing the hands-on science? Does this show make you want to perform experiments yourself? Do you think it intends to? 

TV details

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