Bill Nye can certainly teach us the wonders of science, while making it fun, too...
The first time I ever heard of the TV show Bill Nye the Science Guy was when I, as a young child, saw a magazine advertisement. While waiting in a grocery store checkout line with my mother, I noticed copies of the latest issue of Disney Adventures magazine, and when I flipped through its pages, I saw a one-page ad for Bill Nye the Science Guy, saying, "Science class was NEVER like this." I thought it sounded interesting. It wouldn't be long before I checked my local television listings and found that the show aired on a local PBS public broadcasting channel. Once I saw an episode of Bill Nye, I became a fan. I made an effort to watch episodes of the show every day after I came home from school.
It's very easy to see why this show is great. Bill Nye, wearing his signature light blue lab coat and bowtie, makes science very easy to understand, especially for the target audience of preteens, and combines it with enthusiasm, humor, and fun. It's no wonder that his show was successful, lasting 100 episodes that cover a variety of topics, such as matter, the moon, reptiles, transportation, wetlands, forests, computers, flight, dinosaurs, light and color, the solar system, static electricity, and much more. It should also be no surprise that many school science teachers find it helpful to play videos of the episodes for students.
Let's explore Bill's style of education and entertainment in more detail. Each episode starts with a short, usually humorous segment followed by the show's catchy and upbeat theme song, before the show dives right into the topic. Often, Bill will be at the entrance of Nye Laboratories as he introduces the subject. His lab features numerous models and props that serve as useful visuals. Of course, science isn't limited to the laboratory. It's all around us, which is why he will go to many places other than Nye Laboratories to engage us in science. As for the humor, Bill's puns and, at times, wacky mannerisms certainly can make the kids laugh. Adults might enjoy the humor as well, particularly with Bill's creativity in explaining things. So really, Bill Nye the Science Guy is a show for the whole family, not just for kids only. Not that bad (to use one of Bill's catchphrases).
Here are a few examples of things I remember from the show. In an episode about the solar system, Bill creates a miniature solar system on an indoor soccer field, with both the size of the sun and planets and the distances between them made to scale. He even drives a long distance away from the soccer field to illustrate that the nearest star is really, really, REALLY far away. Also, in an episode about wetlands, Bill has two miniature models, one with wetlands and one with barely any wetlands because homes have been built. He lets water flow into each model, showing that wetlands can minimize flooding and that the homes that were built in place of wetlands get flooded. I could go on and on, but the best thing to do is to watch the episodes yourself.
I do want to talk about one thing that makes this science show unique: song parodies. The second-to-last segment of each episode features a music video with a song that parodies an existing song in pop culture. You know it's a parody because of the song's name and artist. For example, "Whatta Brain" by En Lobe (not "Whatta Man" by En Vogue), "Two Eyes" by The Eye Doctors (not "Two Princes" by The Spin Doctors), "Smells Like Air Pressure" by Nyevana (not "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana), and "AC/DC Charge" by Billy Ray Cyrcuits (not "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus). Believe it or not, many of these songs are quite catchy and sound amazingly like the original songs. I really did find myself singing along with, for example, a spoof of The B-52s song "Love Shack" about the body's circulatory system and a spoof of "Jump" by Kris Kross about the water cycle. (Interestingly enough, one episode is dedicated entirely to the best music video parodies of the show, featuring Mudhoney as a guest.)
Even as an adult looking back on this show from my childhood, I admire what Bill Nye has done with it. I can still watch episodes of Bill Nye the Science Guy with as much enjoyment as when I was a kid anticipating each fascinating episode after school. And I'm very pleased that some children in the next generation are enjoying and learning from this same show, all thanks to the wonderful science teachers out there who know how valuable it can be. The best way to sum this up is for me to cite Bill's other well-known catchphrase, one that represents his passion for his subject: Science rules!
For more information about Bill Nye the Science Guy, visit the Internet Movie Database.