As the host of SciShow, the wildly successful YouTube channel that boasts 2.8 million subscribers, Green is on a much larger mission.
He wants to capture the minds of today’s teenagers, an audience whose interest in science and maths is falling and whose attention spans are razor-thin.
So how does he do it?
By being really, really excited.
“If a teacher stood up in class and did what I do, students would freak,” Green says. “Also, no one could keep that level of energy eight hours a day, five days a week. So I get to put that little jolt into the class and then let the teacher take over and do what they’re best at.”
According to a recent survey, 15% fewer teenagers were interested in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) in 2013 than just a year prior, despite predictions that say the fields will be booming by 2018.
That’s why Green is using his online presence as a way to keep science cool among a cohort of digital natives that live online and have little time for boring subjects IRL.
“I absolutely love the topic and I love talking about science and STEM,” says Green, who recently launched the campaign “I Love STEM” in collaboration with tech giant Emerson. “And I can get away with a lot more enthusiasm in a video than a teacher could in a classroom.”
He’s probably right.
Green’s on-air persona is electric, the kind of over-caffeinated energy that demands you pay attention. Luckily for the viewer, the topics that Green talks about are actually interesting. But when it comes to STEM subjects in particular, which tend to discourage kids because they aren’t easy or intuitive, the trick is making everything not just interesting, but relatable.
“Make STEM topics about what they’re about in the real world: first, not knowing something. Second, figuring it out,” he says. “The best teachers have always known this.”
The “I Love STEM” campaign is founded on this principle. Not every child will want to be a scientist or engineer, but all kids can learn to appreciate problem-solving skills, the linchpin in any successful STEM career.
“YouTube is a great medium for reaching young people because they’re there anyway,” Green says. “On YouTube I can edit a video on STEM so engaging that students can’t disengage.”
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