Updated July 2016

PhET Interactive Simulations: Biology

Useful biology simulations best used in upper-level classes

Subjects & skills
  • 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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PhET's excellent simulations let students visualize and take an active role in controlling complex scientific phenomena, but even with a few useful gems, they aren't as well suited for the K-12 classroom as their counterparts in other disciplines. While simulations for gene expression, the lac operon, membrane channels, and neurons are well made and beautifully illuminate these processes, they're beyond the reach of all but perhaps AP-level biology classes. There are a few tools nicely suited to other life sciences classes, like the natural selection simulator, the eating and exercise visualization, and the stretching DNA applet. In addition, the pH scale demonstration and Plinko probability tool help with chemical and mathematical concepts necessary to gaining deep understanding of biological phenomena. 

While there aren't tons of options for biology and life science teachers here, it's a good chance at least one or two of these tools will find a place in your classroom. Let students get their hands on these and they'll quickly internalize tricky concepts. If you need some ideas, check out the teacher-prepared lesson plans, labs, and guides that accompany each simulation. 

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Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Vincent C. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
La Sierra University
Riverside, United States
Great for visualizing certain biological concepts over time, for example Natural Selection. Offers a moderate amount of variables that can be added to see what changing one or two variables have an effect on a population
It is a good concept and for me more of a start. It helps you see certain concepts but without guidance or instruction it is easy to get lost in the interface. It is definitely a tool to be used side by side with instruction but sometimes the interface has a little too much going on. Possibly organize the variables added so there isn't so much on one screen
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