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.Continue reading Show less
Key Standards Supported
Biological Evolution: Unity and Diversity
Use evidence to construct an explanation for how the variations in characteristics among individuals of the same species may provide advantages in surviving, finding mates, and reproducing.
Construct an argument with evidence that in a particular habitat some organisms can survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that describes how genetic variations of traits in a population increase some individuals’ probability of surviving and reproducing in a specific environment.
Use mathematical representations to support explanations of how natural selection may lead to increases and decreases of specific traits in populations over time.
Construct an explanation based on evidence that the process of evolution primarily results from four factors: (1) the potential for a species to increase in number, (2) the heritable genetic variation of individuals in a species due to mutation and sexual reproduction, (3) competition for limited resources, and (4) the proliferation of those organisms that are better able to survive and reproduce in the environment.
Apply concepts of statistics and probability to support explanations that organisms with an advantageous heritable trait tend to increase in proportion to organisms lacking this trait.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how natural selection leads to adaptation of populations.
Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in: (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.
From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes
Use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals (including humans) need to survive.
Use evidence to support the explanation that traits can be influenced by the environment.
Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.
Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the structure of DNA determines the structure of proteins which carry out the essential functions of life through systems of specialized cells.