Bizarre educational videos they actually showed in school

Depending on which decade you grew up in, you might remember the sheer exhilaration that came when someone rolled an unwieldy TV cart into the classroom at the beginning of the day. On those magical days when your teacher was nursing a particularly large cup of coffee and enforcing a stringent "inside voices" policy, it meant that the day's lessons were being abandoned in favor of a more hangover-friendly screening of The Fox and the Hound. The rest of the time, it just meant educational videos.

Presumably built around the premise that kids will watch anything you put on a screen, educational videos have been buzzing in one side of students' heads and out the other for decades. But every once in a while, this underwhelming medium produces something so odd, so unbelievable, that it clicks back into our heads during our adult lives and makes us think to ourselves "wait, what? Somebody showed me that? On purpose? To teach me … something?" Here are a few of the more scrumptious oddities.

AIDS isn't baseball

In 1988, the AIDS epidemic was on everyone's minds. At this point in history, the World Health Organization estimated that between 5 and 10 million people had been infected with HIV, and the advice from the Centers for Disease Control of "look pretty and do as little as possible" wasn't doing much to reassure an uneasy public. The American people had questions, summed up poetically when the young man in this video half-spoke, half shouted "what is AIDS?!" at his baseball coach on a busy sidewalk.

His coach is quick to let him know: "It's no game, let's get that straight." So what is it, you might ask? A scant few lines later, coach says "think of it as if you were playing baseball against a team of viruses." What follows is the sort of surreal, low-budget dream you might imagine a local access children's television performer to have as he's coming out of surgery. People dressed as viruses, depicted as mascot-headed insect monsters, play baseball against a little league team to explain the way our bodies beat infections … at baseball. Or something. Also of note: an explanation of the role T cells play in our immune defenses, also via mascot costume guys, with the implication that they march bacteria back behind a compound and execute them.

LSD makes your hot dogs scream at you

Just ask any '90s kid: Drugs are bad. The message was hammered into their heads so hard and so often that none of them ever experimented with substances of any kind and now, a few decades later, the drug crisis is over and Americans don't really know what to worry about anymore.

And it's a good thing, too: According to this cautionary film from 1969, LSD was a real brain-breaker. Our protagonist, you see, was at this party, and she was, in her own words, "pretty jacked up on marijuana" when somebody offered her some acid, and she was curious. What follows is the setup to just about every "dork gets stoned" joke from every college comedy from the last 40 years: The narrator dropped acid, didn't feel anything, kept not feeling anything, then decided to go get a hot dog.

You can probably guess what happened next, but in case you can't, the hot dog turned into a troll doll and started screaming at her when she tried to eat it. Our hero threw the hot dog on the ground, ran away screaming, and the end. That's the lesson. Take drugs and your food will be kind of scary for a little while.

The least comfortable sex ed video ever made

Sex ed class isn't your average person's happy place. The weapons-grade level of discomfort it evokes has long made it the go-to spot for people who make a career out of creating awkward educational films. The earmarks are easy to spot: one or two milquetoast adults staring deadfaced into the camera, reciting clinical information while telegraphing a deep sense of mourning for what their acting careers were supposed to be. Nobody has a good time. This one takes it to a whole new level.

There's a pretty decent percentage of the population that would probably posit that a sex ed video shouldn't necessarily start with a prayer, but here we are. Beyond that, there's the borderline dangerously incorrect definition of "love making" as "making each other feel loved," a mischaracterization that undoubtedly led to more than a few heart palpitations when the more emotional kids at school went home and told their parents that the whole class made love to them that day. And of course, there's also the unblinking, Mrs. Doubtfire-voiced explanation of wrestling in the sheets which, if we're understanding this narration, is a friendly, businesslike exchange of fluids. Not water, though. Ladies, rest assured, it's very clearly not water.

How to make sandwiches

You know how it is. Your hubby is on his way home from the cigarette factory or the business store and you, a dutiful 1950s Stepford wife, awaken from sleep mode because previous records indicate that he'll be wanting a delicious sandwich. There's only one problem: You don't know how to sandwich!

Luckily for you, there's "Let's Make A Sandwich," the classic instructional video brought to you by the American Gas Association, who probably didn't see what was funny about that. Open on two boys consuming fast food with the panicked fervor of a pair of feral children, we're informed by the narrator that "there are sandwiches and sandwiches." With that cleared up, we move on to Sally and her mother, a pair of red-blooded American women preparing for company by making "tuna rarebit," a cheese, milk, and tuna delicacy that the audience gets to watch them make. For a brief moment, it looks like Sally or her mother might be allowed to talk, but no. The fatherly narration continues throughout.

Also, did you know that a salad and potato chips are good additions to a meal? Potato chips might seem complicated, but don't worry. The narrator puts them into context for you. And for clarity's sake, he also makes sure to point out one more time, "there are sandwiches and sandwiches." Yes, that line, with that emphasis, comes up twice. This is what learning looks like.

The fruit fly reproductive square dance

Did you ever watch the Mister DNA sequence from Jurassic Park and think to yourself, "yeah, but what if this were twice as long, made in half the time, and written and produced by a biology professor who had just suffered a concussion?" The answer, friends, is the "Meiosis Square Dance."

Okay, lots to unpack here. Yes, the cartoon fruit fly at the beginning gets chopped in half so that we, the viewers, can slowly zoom in on his testes. Yes, this leads, naturally, to a do-si-do between chromosomes, with the cellular process of sexual reproduction explained via a hootenanny of a musical number. Yes, it's just this side of impossible to understand any of the words thanks to the terrible audio quality.

And most importantly, yes, fly chromosomes are inexplicably from New Zealand. Does any part of the universe created by the filmmakers make sense? Not in a huge way. That might be why the Meiosis Square Dance cinematic universe never took off the way anyone was hoping.

How to never forget "me gusta"

It's a question that plagued Spanish teachers across the globe for centuries: How do you get kids to remember that "me gusta" means that you like something? It is, after all, the most difficult aspect of the language to master, if you don't count verb conjugation or retaining the proper gender for every noun on the planet or really pretty much most of the other parts of learning Spanish.

Then along came the "Me Gusta" video to change the game forever. Just take a moment to consider all the things that you gusta. They're all here. Why? Because this frantic, amphetamine-fueled exploration of all the things that people gusta is roughly at the same level as a home video project made by the troublingly noisy kid in class. From silent film clips to a suspiciously enthusiastic plug for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, kids were treated to over ten straight minutes of examples of all things worthy of a good gusta.

A fun introduction to WHY you'll explode

As the Cold War ramped up, a not unreasonable amount of existential terror loomed. This was, after all, now a world where bitter ideological foes possessed access to the greatest potential for man-made destruction the world had ever seen. With each passing day, military efforts seemed less concerned with averting the use of nuclear weapons and more obsessed with the delivery of mutually assured destruction when, inevitably, the other side started dropping bombs. It was a petrifying time to be alive, even more so as a child.

And you know what couldn't have helped? "A Is For Atom," a 1950s cartoon short designed to explain atomic potential to kiddos, and it doesn't waste any time hammering home the fact that it's an Old Testament-style nightmare. It guns the engine hard on bed-wetting imagery by opening with a cartoon mushroom cloud set against brass-heavy minor tones, then shows a shadow encompassing a metropolis, then quotes some Lewis Carroll. After that, charming atoms in suits help explain how protons and neutrons work, followed by sort of a crash course in making nuclear weapons. Look, there are tone problems. It was (literally) made by the guy who helped direct that scene where Bambi's mom got shot.

A fun introduction to HOW you'll explode

Once kids were well versed on the ins and outs of how atomic bombs worked, it was important to fill them in on the best ways to explode if they were ever in the area when one went off. Enter 1951's Duck and Cover, a mixed media short film about nuclear war which, missing the opportunity that was staring it right in the face, did not feature one single duck.

Chances are that you've seen "Duck and Cover" at some point. It's sort of the poster child for Cold War-era preparedness videos, and Bert the Difficult To Blow Up Turtle is probably tucked away in your subconscious somewhere. What you might not remember are some of the finer details, like how Bert is constantly under siege by a suicide monkey dangling a stick of dynamite from a piece of string, or how they describe the way an atom bomb will char your flesh as being "worse than a terrible sunburn." Most importantly, if you're at school when nuclear war breaks out, get under your desk with your hands over your neck. It's very important that when you die horribly, you do it under your desk with your hands over your neck.

That '70s Musical Digestion Thing

How to explain this? Back in the 1970s, everybody was still sort of working the 1960s out of their systems. That's how we wound up with things like Jesus Christ Superstar, Land of the Lost, the destruction of the MK-Ultra files, and whatever the heck Slim Goodbody was.

So here's what the heck Slim Goodbody was: Getting his big break in 1976 on the children's show Captain Kangaroo, Slim Goodbody was known as "The Superhero of Health." He would go on human biology-related adventures, teaching kids about nutritional health and the importance of exercise. But all that is burying the lead. The real star of the show was his onesie.

Yes, Slim Goodbody's iconic look involved a unitard, painstakingly decorated with every facet of the human skeletal, muscular, and digestive systems showable on children's television. Best of all? At last report in 2005, the original performer, John Burstein, was still performing the same character for school assemblies over 40 years later, and yes, he raps now.

Billy B Brennan and fishy genocide

Have you been beating your head against the wall trying to find the perfect onscreen marriage of musical drag performance, questionable green screens, and mass crab death by anoxia? Well, fret no longer. Billy B. Brennan has the scratch for your itch in the form of the Crab Jubilee song.

For more than 40 years, Bill Brennan has been creating video and music resources teaching kids about science and nature. He's put out albums, VHS tapes, and a web series, and as charming and eclectic as it all is, none of it holds a candle to the Crab Jubilee song.

In this masterpiece, Billy B. plays Anoxia May, a Southern belle with a song to sing about the Alabama Gulf Coast's crab jubilee, a sporadic occurrence in which shellfish swarm to the land. Anoxia loves the crab jubilee, but you know who doesn't? Mister Crab, a crustacean involved in the jubilee, helpfully played by Billy B. as well. Joining in on the song, he explains how what you're actually witnessing when this happens is nightmarish mass death: The water has become too starved of oxygen to maintain life, so the crabs head for the hills, the life slowly leaving their poor hardened bodies. Sing along, kiddies!

A very, very, very '90s guide to the internet

Sixty-five million years from now, when Jurassic Park-style scientists are trying to reconstruct the DNA of the snooty, upper-class white people from a Tyler Perry movie, they'll be able to use this video to get most of the relevant genetic material. They'll also have a fair to middling understanding of how to use an AOL and, more importantly, of gut-busting sweater-clad suburban humor like "you know how to spell 'Mississippi' with one i?" (Mom covers one eye, spells "Mississippi," almost throws out her back when the hilarity proves too much for her.)

What sets this instructional video apart from other introductions to the World Wide Web, aside from the looks on the child actors' faces that says "we were too rambunctious so the director force-fed us the last remaining Quaaludes on Earth," is just how much of it is composed of dead air. Whole swaths of the runtime are dedicated to silently scrolling through '90s-era websites while nobody says anything.

This party is going to be off the chain

If the first roadblock you encounter when planning a party is the loud, persistent ringing of the words "but I don't know how to do party!" repeating in your head again and again and again like the bells of a socially stunted clocktower, you're in luck.

"What Makes A Good Party?" was produced by Coronet Instructional Media, an educational video production company founded by, no kidding, a guy named David Smart. Through Coronet, Smart produced dozens of educational films with titles like "Are You Popular?" and "Why We Respect The Law." But none of these cinematic masterpieces reached the same heights as "What Makes A Good Party?" In it, three young women in pajamas explore the nuances of the social gathering they have in mind. There's just so much to do. "We have to feed the men!" one exclaims. Some thought goes into what they'll serve. They land on sandwiches, no doubt confident after learning about tuna rarebits in that earlier video. The trio nearly stumbles when they realize they don't know how they'll keep everyone entertained, but the day is saved when they remember they can go to the library and check out plenty of magazines and books, thereby learning "really good games."

Look, the real star of the picture is the stuffed panda bear and his terrified eyes.

How much does it cost to find out what this video's about?

If you were a red-blooded American youth in the post-World War II United States, you knew two things: Pall Malls were the only cigarette that saved Santa Claus from throat scratch, and capitalism trounced communism any day of the week, buster. But, you might well have wondered, what is capitalism? For answers, you might turn to an educational film called "Capitalism!"

Only, twist! The first thing you're shown in the picture is a title card explaining "In this film, we point the way toward a clearer understanding of capitalism by presenting some of its important aspects. We do not attempt to cover the entire subject, nor to define capitalism." Beaten but unbowed, you might continue watching, hoping to at least sharpen your understanding of matters clearly too complex for just one film.

And then boom. Double twist. The characters in the video immediately and irrefutably start defining capitalism. It's sort of hard to put your finger on what's going on in this movie, but you get the feeling it might have been written by Captain America shortly after he got punched by the Red Skull and his brain started bleeding.