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DVD Review: SciQ – Volume 2

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SciQ hosts Andrew, Paula, and Pemma are back in SciQ – Volume 2 as they tackle another three topics of scientific interest on their Smithsonian Channel science show. Proving just as popular in our home as Volume 1, the latest collection of SciQ episodes offers three 25-minute episodes instead of four, and is priced proportionately lower as well.

The general theme of the collection is moving through the elements. The trio delves into hands-on adventures in the realms of water, snow, and air as they venture into unusual learning settings and tie scientific concepts together with their discoveries.

In “Underwater” Andrew and Paula set themselves the task of exploring the concept of underwater living. Andrew wriggles through the water in a game of underwater hockey, and takes a spin in a dolphin boat, while Paula extends her breath holding abilities from 45 seconds to three minutes as she learns about the sport of free diving. Paula also straps on scuba diving gear to visit an underwater research station where a team of scientists (aquanauts) lives full-time as they study the coral reef. In Pemma’s educationally informative segment, she explores the ways fish communicate underwater.

A lively (if typically infantile) debate between the rival co-hosts Andrew and Paula over which is the most exciting aspect of winter – snow or ice – leads into a varied exploration of the two. Paula takes the side of snow, Andrew the side of ice. Paula participates in catching snowflakes and photographing them, Andrew uses an ice auger to ensure that an outdoor skateway is safe for use, and makes a visit to a manufacturing facility that produces ice sculptures. Andrew and Paula team up on a rare, double-length joint exploration as the two learn vital winter survival skills; Pemma’s “Food for Thought” segment explores the differing winter survival strategies of endotherms and exotherms.

“Flight” sets Andrew and Paula to the task of exploring flying without an airplane. Andrew explores the dynamics of flight with a company that specializes in making unexpected objects into remote control flying devices, from lawnmowers and doghouses to flying pigs. Andrew attempts to experience weightlessness through the sport of motor cross but succeeds mostly in stalling his bike and falling off. Though he does get the hang of driving the bike across turf, he’s not catching any air in this adventure.

Pemma and two assistants father some common supplies and try to make their own do-it-yourself hovercrafts that both demonstrate the principles at work in full-scale vehicles and prove to be surprisingly functional. Paula experiences indoor skydiving, and Andrew tries again to catch some air with a hydrogen peroxide fueled backpack-style jet packs. Though he doesn’t take flight, we do get a neat demonstration of the technology at work, as an experienced aeronaut takes to the air. A variety of other neat facts are explored in less depth – “flying” animals like squirrels and snakes, para motor gliding, and more.

My six-year-old never tires of these episodes, asking for them frequently. They lend themselves naturally to viewing as a supplement to formal science studies, and are engaging enough to be watched just for fun as well. These off-the-beaten path explorations develop a broader knowledge base of general science topics and may even ignite a future passion for specific areas of hands-on study.

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