Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2017


High-quality multimedia brings biological research to life

Subjects & skills
  • Math
  • Science

  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Hundreds of interactive materials and activities highlight actual research.

Cons: Pulling together so many resources into a coherent learning sequence can be overwhelming.

Bottom Line: Superb multimedia tools and lesson plans help kids explore biology through real-world examples.

BioInteractive is best for high school biology, AP biology, and IB biology classes. Teachers can use it to develop three-dimensional units centered on authentic scientific phenomena as required by the Next Generation of Science Standards. BioInteractive does some of the work for you by pulling together legitimate scientific data to help with creating assessments and units. Select Data Points under Resource Type to find figures such as the actual graph scientists used to study the effects of introducing a lizard predator in the Bahamas. 

Need help figuring out all the statistics? Check out the teacher's guide to math and statistics in biology for clear directions based on specific life science examples. Need a great sub plan? BioInteractive has interactive videos with embedded quiz modules that require students to pause and reflect on what they're watching.

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BioInteractive brings biological research to life through award-winning videos, simulations, data points, virtual labs, classroom activities, and more. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has paired high-quality multimedia resources with comprehensive teacher guides written by actual classroom teachers. Through these rich resources, kids can learn about topics such as evolution, ecology, genetics, biodiversity, and human health. Activities are based on actual research, such as using data from the trail cameras in Gorongosa National Park to build biomass pyramids.

Teachers can search through the materials by topic or resource type, with some items assembled into what are called Collections or Short Courses. Film guides, posters, and downloadable apps can also be found on the site to help teachers integrate the content into their classrooms. 

BioInteractive is incredibly well thought-out and well resourced. Teachers are provided with free tools as well as the supports to help best use them. Though at first glance the handouts may seem like traditional worksheets, the questions posed offer opportunities for kids to think deeply about the nature of science. While many of the lessons center on quality short films, there are plenty of places for teachers to extend learning. The activity, Human Feet Are Strange, builds on the film Great Transitions: The Origin of Humans, which introduces the Laetoli trackway, a fossilized set of hominid footprints. Students make a trackway by painting their feet and walking on large paper. Then they compare measurements of their own footprints with actual data from the Laetoli Trail.

One of the biggest strengths of BioInteractive is its focus on actual scientific research in a way that's relatable to kids. CSI Wildlife, based on recent elephant research, has students using genetic fingerprinting to solve cases of poaching. While looking at the link between sickle-cell disease and anemia, students also learn about how Dr. Tony Allison made this connection by building on the work of others, highlighting the social nature of science.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Short films are broadcast-quality and have embedded checkpoints to keep kids focused. As they analyze evidence, students get to feel the excitement of scientific discovery.  

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Each tool is grounded in an issue or puzzle that scientists are trying to figure out. Students watch and hear about scientists at work, then engage in scientific practices themselves.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Many tools are available in Spanish and English. Lesson plans and teacher guides are thoughtful and classroom-ready.

Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 3 reviews) (3 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Stephen T. , Technology coordinator
Technology coordinator
Western Academy Beijing
Chao Yang District, China
BioInteractive: Engage, Think, Extend
HHMI Biointeractive is one of the best tools out there for introducing and extending knowledge in IB Biology (and MYP Science), with highly engaging, short videos, interactives, lesson plans and data sets. It can be used to introduce new topics or to extend thinking, and is easy enough to navigate for student-led inquiries. It is well organised with a lot here to connect to the curriculum, allowing learners to see science in action and put a context to the content. There is so much here, it could take a ...
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