Saturday, October 17, 2009

DVDs/Videos We've Enjoyed

We don't subscribe to cable TV at home so we checked most of these DVDs out either via the Santa Clara County Library system or through our account.


The Story of 1 (PBS)
Very entertaining production on the history of the number one. DS watched this over and over and over again. Available on and possibly through your library too.

Donald in Mathmagic Land
Acclaimed video of Donald Duck in a land full of numbers. See how math is connected to the arts, nature and more. We watched it through Netflix.


Secrets of Ancient Empires: The First Civilizations
The rise of man from primitive hunter to city builder and that of the earliest civilizations. Ancient cities profiled include Babylon and Jericho.

Egypt: Rediscovering a Lost World (BBC)
A six-part production. Shows like a movie but filled with memorable lessons in Ancient Egyptian history. Among the luminaries profiled are Howard Carter (who discovered the tomb of King Tut), Giovanni Belzoni (who found the many monuments built in honor of Ramses II) and Jean Francois Champollion (first to decipher the hieroglyphs on the Rosetta Stone).

Lost Treasures of the Ancient World series: lots of titles to choose from, including Ancient Egypt, Ancient China, Ancient India, Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, Ancient Jerusalem, Dark Age England, Samurai Japan, Empires in the Americas and many more. We've watched about 8 to 10 of these and have enjoyed them to varying extents. There are instances of violence, reference to promiscuous behavior and so on although nothing extremely overt has assailed DS' senses so far. Nevertheless, I would strongly suggest viewing them with your child or at least previewing in advance.

Walking with Dinosaurs (BBC)
Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (BBC)
Always hits in our home. Amazing CGI effects! They look so real that younger kids may have a fright.

The Ascent of Man
Surveys the survival of Man: from primitive times to today's high-tech world. An American Film Festival Award winner. Not as riveting as some of the other DVDs listed here but very educational.

Einstein's Big Idea (NOVA)
Dramatizes how E=mc2 came to be. Profiles not only a dreamy, younger Einstein but also, the contributions of Michael Faraday, Antoine Lavoisier, Mme du Ch√Ętelet (a French, aristocratic lady mathematician and scientist who translated Newton's Principia Mathematica) and the brilliant Lise Meitner (Jewish lady physicist largely responsible for her discoveries on nuclear fission but glaringly left out by the Nobel committee).

Other good biographical works we've watched (with and without DS in attendance):

Einstein Revealed (Nova)
Galileo's Battle for the Heavens (Nova) - Based on Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel (some parts may not be age appropriate)
Newton's Dark Secrets (Nova) (April 2009)
Infinite Secrets: The Genius of Archimedes (Nova) (March 2009)


The Life of Birds (BBC) (Feb-March 2009)
A riveting series narrated by Sir David Attenborough. A must for the young (and older) bird lover. We loved the close ups! And boy do some birds have attitude!

and another title lovingly narrated by Sir Attenborough: The Life of Mammals (May 2009). There are liberal references to mating and sexual reproduction in a few parts.

My attempt to get the kiddo very interested in marine biology/ ocean science didn't go smoothly. But oh well, I personally liked these videos.

Deep Blue, narrated by Pierce Brosnan (amazing underwater photography!), James Cameron's exciting Aliens of the Deep and gorgeous Earth, narrated by James Earl Jones.


A definite treat for a budding young biologist is National Geographic's Inside The Living Body which takes a fascinating trip through the body of a human female right from birth to her 80's. Expect mesmerizing (and to some, it might look real gross) footage of how food goes through the gut, how the immune system attacks viruses and basically how our body, well works! It was immensely riveting to DS and I but there are also inevitable references to puberty and sexual reproduction and even a death scene which might make you squeamish or nervous to show around young kids. Preview if possible and/ or use the remote liberally to forward to more comfortable parts.


We are huge fans of Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson and loved NOVA's Origins which he narrated.

We also watched a little of Teaching Company's My Favorite Universe (May 2009), beautifully narrated by Dr Tyson, for some reason that I cannot remember, not completing the viewing.

NOVA's The Elegant Universe is another must-watch if you have a space/ astronomy fan at home.

Just thought I should mention that all of these videos take the evolution view of how the universe and our world came about to be.

Very recently, we've been watching History Channel's The Universe, (we're on Season 1 for now; there are a total of 4 seasons I believe) and are enjoying it very much. I personally found the parts on Mars: The Red Planet and The End of the Earth: Deep Space Threats to Our Planet very intriguing. I should highlight that if you have a very sensitive young viewer who would immensely dread any possible threat to Earth from outer space, you might want to wait a while before watching this with him/ her.

On the to-watch-soon list:
Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series

Links to video sources:
Library Video
Delta Education's List - inspiration for DVD titles to check out from Netflix or your library


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