It was in the fifth grade while watching a film (yes, a film with two reels) about Plymouth Plantation that I first realized I enjoy watching documentaries. 20+ years later I still enjoy documentaries. As a teacher I think that a good documentary video when used in the right setting can be valuable to students. Quality documentary videos can provide students with useful explanations or demonstrations of concepts. Unfortunately, documentary DVDs can be expensive acquisitions for some school departments. Here are seven places where you can find and watch documentaries online for free.
PBS Video is currently my favorite place to find high quality documentaries. As a teacher of U.S. History I'm partial to the American Experience videos, but there are many other good programs available through PBS Video. NOVA and Nature are two of the highlights of PBS Video. Most of the videos on PBS Video can be embedded into your blog or website.
Snag Learning and Snag Films offers access to hundreds of high quality documentary videos. Snag Learning categorizes documentaries by grade level and content area. Additionally, Snag Learning offers a series of guiding questions for each film. You can embed previews of each video into your blog, but you have to watch the full-length versions on Snag Learning or Snag Films.
Documentary Heaven is a free site that has organized more than 1600 documentary films found across the Internet. Through Documentary Heaven can find documentaries covering all kinds of topics in science, history, politics, business, and many more categories. The videos are sourced from a variety of services including, but not limited to, YouTube.
Folk Streams is a good website featuring documentary films of American life. Visitors to Folk Streams will find films about various demographic segments of the population as well as films about regions of the country. The films are produced by independent directors and come from a variety of distributors. Most of the films appear to be between thirty and sixty minutes in length although there are some films outside of that range. Visitors to Folk Streams can search by region, subject, title, filmmaker, or distributor.
Explore.org produces and hosts high-quality documentary films and photographs. The films and images focus on exploring the world and the work of non-profit organizations around the world. The films and images are organized by destination. There are twelve destinations in all including China, Tibet, the Middle East, and India. Explore.org is funded in part by the Annenburg Foundation.
Documentary Tube, like similar services, is a catalog of full-length documentaries found on the web. Documentary Tube doesn't actually host the videos rather it catalogs them and displays them through embedding. Documentary Tube videos come from places like Daily Motion, YouTube, and Google Video. The catalog is arranged thematically. If you find a lot of documentaries on Documentary Tube you create and save playlists of your favorites.
DocumentaryZ offers hundreds of documentaries organized into two dozen categories. Many of the videos are served via YouTube, but some are not. If you're fortunate enough to work in a school that allows you to access YouTube, DocumentaryZ is worth bookmarking.