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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's no questionable content in HowStuffWorks, an eye-opening series that examines how basic resources like aluminum, iron, and lead are turned into an array of everyday products. The show's heavily technical content will likely bore young kids, but families with tweens and up who tune in will be amazed by the diversity of uses for these commodities and the effort it takes to process them, and they'll gain a new appreciation for the scientific research that continues to improve agriculture and manufacturing. The series is closely tied to its parent Web site, which offers fans even more intriguing content about each episode's topic.
What's the story?
Based on a popular Web site of the same name, HOWSTUFFWORKS focuses on the ingenuity behind manufacturing processes that put ordinary resources like cotton, rubber, and iron to an array of diverse uses. Each episode centers on a new commodity, demonstrating how modern scientific reengineering enables manufacturers to create surprising products from basic resources -- like turning corn into plastic, water into a powerful cutting tool, and salt into the possible future of energy. The series also touches on the environmental impact of some of these manufacturing processes and presents the possible benefits of investigating further uses for the resources.
Is it any good?
This show is a veritable cornucopia of information, encompassing an array of scientific disciplines and relating them to the manufacturing process of the resource highlighted in each episode. Tuning in is like taking a field trip to the most fascinating museum you can imagine. Simply put, viewers will be in awe at the exhaustive effort it takes to create diverse consumer products from basic goods like gold and cotton, and after tuning in they're sure to be more curious about the origins of the items they use and consume in their daily lives.
This fascinating series' strong educational content makes it great for families, and detailed CGI illustrations and time-lapse photography enable science novices to grasp even the most technical jargon. While young kids likely won't take an interest in the subject matter, give this one a go with your grade-schoolers and tweens -- you'll be amazed at what you learn together.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sciences. How does this series demonstrate science's real-world applications? What disciplines (chemistry, biology, etc.) were represented ? In what ways do scientists' efforts make the world healthier and more efficient? What aspects of science interest you? What problems would you like to work on improving?
Families can also discuss the media's use as a learning tool. Was the purpose of this series to educate or entertain? Do you think it succeeded at its goal? In what ways was information presented differently here from how it is in school or in textbooks? What other shows have you watched that try to teach? How does this one compare?
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