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DVD Review: SciQ – Volume 1

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Smithsonian Channel’s SciQ series is now available on DVD for convenient replays whenever desired. This entertaining and incredibly informative science show explores a wide variety of topics for hands-on exploration. Teenage hosts Andrew, Paula, and Pemma tackle a general topic and dig in on-site to bring to light processes, facts, and inventions that are new and exciting for both children and parents.

Andrew and Paula approach each topic from a competitive perspective. Filled with rivalry, each seeks to out-do the other. Paula is the "smart girl" whereas Andrew takes on the "goofy guy" role with relish. The acting is a bit cheesy, and reminds me of teen-hosted TV from my own childhood, but glimpses of authentic exuberance and the joy of discovery break through from time to time.

My six-year-old thinks Andrew’s goofball antics are hilarious – he’s the hands-down favorite around here. Paula is a bubbly, keener type – while Andrew is wandering around cracking jokes, Paula is vigorously scribbling notes. Pemma stands outside of the competition, providing educational asides in her “Food for Thought” that add detail and differing perspectives. Her segments are included on all of the episodes in this volume except the first – "CSI."

The four 25-minute episodes contained in Volume 1 are: “CSI,” “Spies,” “Movie Magic,” and “Sound.” These relatively simple titles belie the wealth of intriguing detail packed into each episode. In “CSI” Andrew and Paula learn about fingerprinting, DNA testing, footprint and fingerprint lifting, dog detectives, and the scientific concepts surrounding each hands-on learning opportunity they undertake. The show culminates in their independent examination of a mock crime scene.

“Spies” examines the way we see and surveillance technology. Spy robots, police helicopters armed with infrared cameras, a polygraph demonstration, gait analysis are just the beginning of the learning explorations in this episode. Andrew gets to take part in the CT examination of a mummy to examine its bones and determine its gender. Paula visits a Navy training facility to learn how dolphins and sea lions as part of underwater observation programs.

In “Movie Magic” the realm of Hollywood special effects is delved into through stunt-man training for Andrew, an exploration of creating film weather by Pemma, and Paula digs into some pyrotechnics. Extreme makeup is explored as Andrew is transformed into a zombie through the use of face molds, masks, makeup, and more. He also steps into the studio of a foley artist and tries his hand at a short filmed sequence.

Andrew's voice training and failed mock audition for a rock band form the central focus for “Sound.” Paula spends some time with the Blue Man Group learning the basics of sound waves and plays with a sound spotlight, while Andrew takes the world’s loudest vehicle out for a spin.

This debut collection of SciQ episodes is an excellent fit for unit studies, as a supplement to science courses, or extra-curricular viewing for fun. My six-year-old asks for SciQ: Volume 1 on a regular basis; it’s engaging in its own right, even outside of a formal educational context. The average viewer will undoubtedly find some new tidbit of knowledge that will “feed your brain” – the series slogan. Appealing to all ages, SciQ will make a fun, informative addition to the DVD collections of educators and families.

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