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The Bill Nye Education

Art by Jake Upton

By Alex Hepp

Like most students who grew up in the early 2000s, I watched several Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes during my elementary school education. Twice a week we would have science class which gave us introductions to various topics such as atoms and molecules, electricity, and gravity. During those classes, we would often watch one of Bill Nye’s episodes. As we all cleared the desks and moved our chairs in three rows, and the TV on wheels was rolled into our classroom, excitement was always high. While I generally retained little to none of the information presented in the videos, it was one of my first introductions to science and it still remains with me today.

There were two particular Bill Nye videos that I remember in detail. The first was an episode on living bugs which described the several million microscopic bugs that live on your skin everyday, crawling back and forth. In hindsight, this was a bad choice of an episode to show to easily-traumatized 5th graders. Bill Nye described the hairs on your arms as if they were skyscrapers or towering redwood trees to the bugs. I still have a fond memory of rushing out of the classroom with my best friend after class ended and dousing myself with that overpriced and underperforming bottle of hand sanitizer from Bath & Body Works that everyone had clipped to their backpack, secured in a multi-colored rubber sleeve.

The second episode I remember well was on blood and circulation. Throughout this episode, Bill Nye discussed the basics of how blood is created and moved through the body. He went into detail on the purpose of blood, BPM, the heart, and blood pressure. The episode is also marked by the classic “Did You Know That…” facts that always seemed impossible at the time, like how each day your body makes 200 billion red blood cells. Some episodes had activities in them that we recreated during class.

Following the viewing of the blood and circulation episode, my class broke off into several teams to complete our activities. The group I was in had bottle caps and straws at our table and our goal was to physically display the pumping of blood through our veins. We made small slits in the straw and bottle cap and connected the two together with glue. We then placed the bottle cap in the crook of our elbow. As the blood pumped out through our veins, it would slightly move the bottle cap and we could watch as the straw bent forward and backwards. While this is only a simple example of the knowledge Bill Nye taught to young students, it was one of the first memorable exposures to the scientific world that I experienced.

The ingenuity of Bill Nye the Science Guy was teaching complex ideas in a simple and engaging way for young students to understand. His episodes were often complete with vibrant animations, scene changes from his lab to various locations such as a cafe or in the woods, interviews with students, and episode-specific songs. While I credit my introduction to science to Bill Nye the Science Guy, as well as a trip to the ECHO Center several years later, I’m convinced that Bill Nye has made as much of a lasting impact on millions of other students as he made on me. As connected with the children of today as he was in the 90’s and early 2000’s, Bill Nye has recently taken to TikTok to explain why we wear masks and what type of masks are effective in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Included are links to Bill Nye’s TikTok videos if you’d like to relive your childhood.

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