Now the boys watch with me. Initially I just let them watch because I'd reached a point where I believed viewing one more single episode of Dora The Explorer or Blue's Clues or Scooby-Doo would drive me insane. So we began with a few of the tamer episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, moved onto the original series, got hooked on Voyager, and fell hard for Deep Space 9 before moving onto the movies.
Star Trek an integral part of our homeschooling life.
Overall it's been a positive influence on the boys. They follow and discuss the story arcs and themes. They theorize outcomes and character motivations. When they engage in imaginative play, the solutions are now less likely to be a light saber battle than a technical or engineering fix. I credit Star Trek with giving the boys language skills and vocabulary that outstrips their peers, ie the other day my 9 year old marveled that his new science kit had "an ingenuous closing mechanism."
Star Trek episodes1 are a great supplementary tool for our course work. Here's a list of possible tie-ins:
Shakespeare lovers will enjoy The Conscience of the King (TOS) about an inter-galactic travelling troupe of Shakespearean actors.
Wrap up a unit study on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes with the episodes Elementary, Dear Data (TNG) and Ship in a Bottle (TNG).
Wonder how Mark Twain would get along with Data and Picard? Check out his appearance in Time's Arrow (TNG).
Picard and the crew are trapped in a recreation of Robin Hood in Qpid (TNG).
A character's obsession with Les Miserables is at the core of For The Uniform (DS9).
After my boys watched Heroes and Demons (VOY), a retelling of Beowulf, they were obsessed with Grendel for weeks.
(Edited: April 13) The tradition of Ancient Greek drama is evoked in Muse (VOY).
Star Trek The Original Series is a treasure-trove of lessons for Classical Education students. Want to learn about Greek mythology? Well, it's been liberally interpreted, but Who Mourns for Adonis (TOS) is interesting. Curious about the Romans? Here's the episode for you: Bread and Circuses (TOS). Need to learn more about Greek gods? Plato's Stepchildren (TOS) is sublime. This episode features the first interracial kiss on network TV!
Life in the thirties plus the evils of pacificism can be discussed after you watch The City on the Edge of Forever (TOS). Not had your fill of history? Try A Piece of the Action (TOS) about a planet where the culture is -- for reasons I can't recall -- based on 1920 gangster film. FIZZBIN!!
Doing a unit on the Third Reich? I highly recommend Patterns of Force (TOS). Don't dwell on the natural questions of "WHY? WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? SPACE NAZIS!!??" just enjoy the ride.
Who doesn't love a good "Jack the Ripper Was An Alien Parasite" story? WHO?, I ask you. Watch Wolf in the Fold (TOS) -- it'll knock your socks off.
Everything I know a know about the OK Corral I learned from Spectre of the Gun (TOS). I'm going to assume the whole episode is a documentary. A HISTORY documentary. Homeschool lesson LEARNED.
Are there gaps in your knowledge about Abraham Lincoln and Geneghis Khan? Good news! Both are featured in Savage Curtain (TOS).
Finished reading "The Crucible?" Bet you'll get a lot out of The Drumhead (TNG), an exploration of witch hunts and the Macarthy Era.
Life for a black man in 1950s America is the framework for Far Beyond The Stars (DS9) while Roswell, New Mexico (circa 1945) is the backdrop for Little Green Men (DS9).
Supplementary information from the episode Concerning Flight (VOY) concluded our Leonardo Da Vinci study.
What ever happened to Amelia Earhart? Turns out she was abducted by space aliens and used as genetic source for a race of slaves: The 37s (VOY).
Human trafficking and drug use is covered in a surprisingly light manner in Mudd's Women (TOS).
A discussion about racism and intolerance might be inspired by a viewing of Let That Be Your Last Battlefield (TOS).
Researching the issue of over-population is a good reason to watch The Mark of Gideon (TOS).
Angel One (TNG) would be a great supplement for a discussion on matriarchy. Secondary goal: teaching young people that no one can resist Jonathan Frakes in a sparkly v-neck blouse.
Fun with archaeology in Captain's Holiday (TNG), The Chase (TNG) and Gambit (TNG).
Where do you stand on euthanasia? Use Half a Life (TNG) as a starting point for a debate. Then segue into the subject of eugenics with Space Seed (TOS), Doctor Bashir, I Presume? (DS9), Masterpiece Society (TNG).
What are the ethical considerations when granting rights to artificial life forms? The matter is dealt with in Author, Author (VOY), The Measure of a Man (TNG) and Ship in a Bottle (TNG).
The plight of First Nations people is showcased in Journey's End (TNG).
There are many parallels between the Deep Space 9's Dominion War and our current War on Terror . Though they were produced in 1996, Homefront (DS9) and Paradise Lost (DS9) are even more poignant today when our civil liberties are curtailed due to media-hyped fears of sleeper cells and domestic terrorism.
Neo-luddites are freaks. To wit: Paradise (DS9).
Will America descend into fascism in the 21st century. That's the basis for a gritty episode called Past Tense (DS9).
Capitalism is going to be the downfall of America. If Americans won't learn the lesson from Canadians maybe they'll learn something from Prophet Motive (DS9).
It should be watched in combination with Bar Association (DS9) which is about collective bargaining and trade union.
Most of the shows are math-centric. Very often the manipulation of figures is the turning point of the plot. But there are a few specific instances:
Fun with binary numbers: 11001001(TNG).
Researching principles of Dyson Spheres? Check out Relics (TNG), featuring James Doohan.
Everything I know about Fermat's Last Theorem, I learned from The Royale (TNG). Erm. I actually don't know shit about Fermat's Last Theorem. Or his first theorem, for that matter.
Let the kids watch Move Along Home (DS9) and call it research into game theory. A viewing of Statistical Probabilities (DS9) is a reinforcement of the principles of statistics. Same goes for Think Tank (VOY).
Astro-physics is discussed in Playing God (DS9) and Starship Down (DS9) and a few hundred other episodes.
Really any episode that features the science or engineering officers from the crews (Spock, Data, Seven, Dax, Scotty, Geordi, B'Elanna, Miles) is going to be science-rich.
Zealots **cough*Creationist Nut Jobs*cough** using religious doctrine to stifle scientific discovery and discussion is the theme of In The Hands of the Prophets (DS9).
Evolution isn't pretty. As witnessed in Threshold (VOY). Who needs a tongue anyway?
Science always suffers when doctrine stymies research, as explored in Distant Origin (VOY).
A Bill Gates/Steve Jobs-type character finds a space ship from the 29th century and harvests the technology in a bid to get very rich: Future's End (VOY).
The real-life applications of space elevators warrants a viewing of Rise (VOY).
When intoxicated you will do crazy things, a la The Naked Time (TOS). Teach your kids about that addictive behaviour can start from benign circumstances by watching and discussing Symbiosis (TNG) and The Game (TNG). The biological components of drug addiction are discussed in Hippocratic Oath (DS9).
Are your children leaning toward an unsavoury lifestyle choice, ie becoming hippies. There's no time like now to teach them that no one like hippies. Especially space-faring hippies, so sit them down and watch The Way To Eden (TOS).
If you have unprotected sex with strange alien ladies you'd better be prepared to parent a little brat like Alex, the relevant episodes are The Reunion (TNG) and New Ground (TNG). Same lessons go for ladies who let alien life forces enter their wombs (see: The Child(TNG)).
Sexual orientation was explored in The Outcast (TNG). Yay, that's right Star Trek was lobbying for gay rights in 1992. Suck on that Glee! It's not handled as adroitly as I would like, but the issue of homosexuality is also touched upon in the episode Rejoined (DS9).
Have any more episodes that can be deemed educational? Let me know in the comments and I'll update this list.
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1 Missing from this list are episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, because I wasn't an avid viewer. On account of it sucking.