From Cartoons To Aliens, Oceans To Ants: 5 Awesome TED Ed Lessons

Did you know:

  • An octopus can disguise itself to look like a plant?
  • Cartoonists are like sponges?
  • There may be more universes than just our own?
  • An ant that finds food leaves a scented trail for others to follow?
  • There’s light you can see and light you can’t see?

Every week we highlight great TED Ed lessons, and this time we’re featuring 5 of the most popular ones, selected by the TED folks for their blog. (Ages 10 and up)

Sea Creatures and More Ocean Wonders

In “Deep Ocean Mysteries and Wonders,” deep-sea explorer David Gallo points out that less than 5% of the oceans have been explored. For example, only recently was it discovered that 80% of all the world’s volcanoes are actually at the ocean bottom. But the main focus of this lesson is videos and photos of amazing undersea creatures, like a scary vampire squid, and an octopus that can instantly change its shape and coloration to fool predators.


If you want to learn even more, go to the full lesson.

Do You Like Cartoons? Ever Want to Create One?

Then you’ll enjoy this entertaining, informative lesson from famous New Yorker cartoonist Liza Donnelly (the youngest ever hired at that magazine). She explains how a cartoonist needs to think, and what goes into creating a good cartoon. As she says, “The image and words need to dance together, in a way that makes sense.”


The full lesson has more to offer, including a link to her website.

Questions We Can’t Answer

What would it feel like to be a dog? Is there a plan for my life? Why do so many people suffer? One of TED’s leaders, Chris Anderson, is interested in questions we can’t fully answer. But it doesn’t stop people from trying. His two-minute intro to the topic is in the video below, and leads to two more: “How many universes are there?” and “Why can’t we see evidence of alien life?” Very stimulating!


You can jump to the full lesson, where the “Dig Deeper” section has some great exercises and links to sites like (stands for The Really Big Questions). I liked their page on “Why Does Music Move Us?”.

Inside An Ant Colony

There are 14,000 species of ants. Outside of humans, ants appear to have the most complex societies on earth, with a variety of roles that are biologically programmed. This video lesson from Stanford professor Deborah Gordon is under five minutes, and takes you on a fascinating, whirlwind tour of an ant colony. The animation can be pretty funny. My favorite image is a male ant whose only role is to wait around for mating time. He’s shown munching on a pizza!


In the full lesson, there’s a link to the professor’s site where she shows you how to do an experiment on how ants work together to search a space, with a video demo. Cool stuff!

Light You Can (And Can’t) See

Princeton Professor and NASA researcher Lucianne Walkowicz gives a terrific lesson on light: the visible kind, and the invisible kind, and what they all are…and why they’re so important to understand the world and universe around us. The Claymation animation is wonderful. This will literally make you “see” in a different way.


The full lesson has a batch of great links, including this one on how people see color.

Leave a comment about your favorite mini-lesson, and be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss these and other posts about the wide world of learning!


Related Articles

Join our community

Sign up to participate in America’s premier community focused on helping students
reach their full potential.