On January 8, New Jersey fourth-grade science and social studies teacher Mike DeMaio—best known by his students and his 294,000 YouTube subscribers as Mr. DeMaio—released his 100th humorous and fact-filled video for kids on the YouTube channel he launched in 2013. Episodes like Black Holes Explained for Kids! and Six Times Table Song! (Cover of Cheerleader by OMI) feature DeMaio and friends (including fellow teachers and Muppet-like puppets) performing sketches, graphic-rich presentations, or singing, dancing, and goofing, all while delivering solid STEM lessons. And next week, he’s bringing his silly, science-centric style to a new middle-grade book series, Mr. DeMaio Presents!, published by Penguin Workshop. Launching the series on February 1 are Record-Breaking Natural Disasters, exploring hurricanes, tornadoes, and other catastrophic phenomena; and The Biggest Stuff in the Universe, in which the crew travels across the galaxy in search of super-giant asteroids, mega space volcanoes—and a 26-pound gummy bear.

The books are a dreamed-of next step in DeMaio’s lifelong science journey. “My interest in science started as a boy,” he recalled. “I loved watching shows like Bill Nye the Science Guy or Beakman’s World and I would eagerly await the portion of my school day dedicated to the subject.” As he grew older, he narrowed his focus to some favorite areas of exploration and study, including astronomy, paleontology, biology, and environmental science. “Today, I continue to be fascinated with how things work and the story of why things are the way they are, but furthermore, I thoroughly enjoy explaining these things to people and sharing my knowledge with those who will listen.”

When DeMaio was in college and began considering career paths, “I knew more than anything I wanted to do something that had a lasting impact on the world,” he said. He thought back on the people who had positively influenced his life to that point. “There was a wide array from police officers to teachers to counselors who lived to help others and make a difference. I had taken a few college courses in each of these areas and slowly the dots started to connect. I knew I wanted to be a teacher!”

It was during his first year in the elementary classroom that DeMaio was inspired to embrace videos as a teaching tool. “I was teaching a science lesson and one of my students had put his head down,” DeMaio said. “Later in the day, I asked him why. Did he not have enough sleep? Played too much kickball during recess? Nope. He said he was just bored.”

DeMaio took that student’s response as a personal challenge. “That night I thought of my science experience and what I enjoyed. I remember my fourth grade teacher using videos from our library to supplement her lessons in class, so I attempted to do the same. I played a video on classifying animals that I had found in the library for my class. Lo and behold, that same student had his head down.”

When that first audio-visual attempt didn’t cut it, DeMaio soldiered on. He realized that he had all the necessary tools to create videos of his own. “I went home, threw a quick video together and showed it to my class. The response was electric!” he said. “They kept asking for more and more and I felt compelled to give it to them. Parents from all over my small town were so grateful and excited that their children were coming home and choosing to watch videos on science subjects. It is that same excitement from kids and families that still drives the creation of my videos today.”

In fact, DeMaio’s students play a key role in developing his video content. In addition to listening to his gut, “I talk to my students,” DeMaio said of his creative process. “They started this path and I usually let them guide it. Even when I have a subject in mind, I will ask their opinion about it.” He receives additional requests, opinions—and some financial support—via Patreon.

DeMaio’s videos now rack up roughly two million views every month, and he produces a new episode approximately every three to four weeks. Fans can even purchase Mr. DeMaio merchandise—t-shirts, pillows, socks, face masks—featuring favorite characters or quotes from the videos.

Beyond his video empire, DeMaio said he’s been interested in creating media outside of YouTube for some time and thought that books could be a fun new format.[“After spending a few months coming up with ideas, I was approached by Nick Magliato, a senior editor at Penguin Workshop [who had seen his YouTube videos],” DeMaio said. “He had a strong grasp on what I was hoping to accomplish, and I felt as though he saw the vision I had for my books.” The topics for the two inaugural titles were selected “due to the success that similar subjects have had on my YouTube channel,” DeMaio noted.

Shifting creative gears was a “little tricky at first,” DeMaio said. “I knew I could nail down the informative part, but I was worried whether I would be able to present my same style of humor in print form as I do in video. It took some getting used to, but I believe I was able to find my comedic voice.”

He had additional concerns about the constraints of transitioning to print. “Whether it is teaching in person or creating a video, you have plenty of time,” he said. “I can always continue a lesson tomorrow or add an extra minute or two to explain something in a video, but books are different. There’s only so much space on a page, so you have to make sure what you are saying is clear and concise. Once I figured out how to do that it was smooth sailing.”

Looking ahead, DeMaio noted that he’s not quite sure where his book series will lead. “I have quite a few ideas for more books, but I want them to develop organically. Let’s see how these books perform and, like the videos, let the fans guide the path of where we go next.”