STANARDSVILLE — One Ruckersville Elementary School first-grader isn’t letting school closings keep him from exploring Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curricula.
Nathaniel Murphy, with help from his dad James, has started a YouTube channel called “Cool School with Nathaniel” and is posting weekly episodes where he performs science experiments with materials found around the house.
“Our son talked to me right after school was let out about not being able to learn with his friends and classmates anymore and that it was very sad for him,” the elder Murphy said. “We talked about it for a little while and came up with a plan to start a learning show on YouTube that not only his classmates here in Greene County could watch and learn from, but also kids all over who are out of school.”
James Murphy, who was already home from work on disability due to a back injury, has been helping Nathaniel shoot, edit and upload the weekly videos in addition to his school work.
“For the first one or two (episodes), my dad and grandma came up with the ideas,” Nathaniel said. “And then they thought, wait, it’s not ‘cool school with James’ or ‘cool school with Mickey;’ it’s ‘cool school with Nathaniel,’ so then they started letting me choose.”
In just two weeks, the YouTube page has garnered more than 300 individual views with more than 900 minutes of watch time, with some of the views coming from as far as Australia and Great Britain.
“All the kids are out of school so it has been really fun to see the views growing,” James Murphy said. “I honestly did not think that after doing this for a couple weeks we would have over 15 hours of watch time. My wife Brittney and I are both very proud of Nathaniel for doing this.”
So far, Nathaniel has explored Newton’s laws of motion, made egg drop “soup” to play with density and salt content, created a tiny tornado in a pickle jar to showcase centrifugal force, and learned about water molecules. This week they will be making a balloon rocket.
“Especially right now with everyone kind of quarantined and stuck and not going to the store as much, we found some ways to learn with stuff that’s around the house,” said James Murphy, explaining that each video includes an explanation of the experiment and suggestions for recreating the experiment at home with common household objects.
“When we were talking about what it was that Nathaniel wanted to do, we thought, if you’re going to teach kids and do it in a fun way, (you should) do experiments.”
Nathaniel picked up a passion for math and science while at RES.
“When I was in kindergarten we did STEM and one of the projects we had to do had three colors and they were making these annoying sounds,” said Nathaniel, explaining that the colored items had to be arranged in the correct order to stop the sound and that through trial and error, each group worked together to solve the problem until the whole room was silent.
Nathaniel and his dad have had a lot of fun coming up with the different experiments, deciding how to shoot the videos, and editing them to post on YouTube.
“It was mainly my dad’s idea because dad’s back got hurt so then he had to stay home from work and now he has to stay home big time from COVID-19,” Nathaniel said. “But then he thought why not do a YouTube channel or something like that to keep us busy, and then we came up with this idea of ‘Cool School.’”
James Murphy said he really enjoys this time with his son.
“We’ve watched him through these last two years,” he said. “He’s really taken a liking to building things and the science and STEM-type activities. It’s been fun watching his teachers following his videos and commenting and even his principal found out about the videos and commented on them.”
One important thing about science is that not every experiment goes perfectly the first time.
“On some of them, it took us three, four, five times to try get something right, but we put it all into the video,” James Murphy said. “You learn something and keep doing it, and that was actually one of the comments from his teacher; she was really proud that he kept at it. We were shooting that one out on our deck for three or four hours trying to get it.”
James and Nathaniel hope that local students will watch the videos and post their own experiments or ideas for new activities to try on the page moving forward.
“Now more kids around the county will hopefully be able to learn while we’re all at home and trying to adjust to something that we’ve not been through before,” James Murphy said.
You can check out “Cool School with Nathaniel” on YouTube or on Facebook at facebook.com/CoolSchoolwithNathaniel.