Sims for Scienceby: Katherine K. Perkins, Patricia J. Loeblein, and Kathryn L. Dessau

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Since 2002, the PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado has been working to provide learning tools for students and teachers. The project has developed over 85 interactive simulations—or sims—for teaching and learning science. Although these sims can be used in a variety of ways, they are specifically designed to make scientist-like, inquiry-based activities that are productive and fun learning experiences for students. In this article, the authors focus on the design features of PhET sims that support inquiry learning, highlight their alignment with standards for several science disciplines, and provide examples of inquiry-based activities.

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Reviews (3)
  • on Thu Nov 17, 2011 8:12 PM

PhET Interactive Simulations Project at the University of Colorado has developed over 85 interactive simulations, all of which are free, for students and teachers to use within classrooms to help students understand a variety of concepts. I have used the sims with my middle school students as both a demonstration as well as a supplement provided for students to use at home. Sims are available for Physics, Chemistry, Earth Science and Math. A big advantage to the sims is students are able to experience labs that we couldn’t otherwise do, either because of lack of equipment or constraints on time.

Sandy Gady  (Renton, WA)
Sandy Gady (Renton, WA)

  • on Wed May 11, 2011 9:35 PM

We used this article in our Professional Learning Community, PLC, to help build understanding of the use of simulations, or Sims, in our middle school classroom. PhET Interactive Simulations from the University of Colorado has developed over 85 interactive simulations to enhance student learning. I’ve used many of the simulations in m Design and Engineering classroom, a favorite of the students is “Circuit Construction Kit”. This one in particular has been useful because we no longer have the budget to replace old and missing electronic kit parts. Student learning continues even though the real hands on materials are gone. The “Sims and Benchmarks” table does a nice job highlighting sims available for use within each content area. Lots of examples are available explaining how the authors have used the sims in their own classroom along with samplings of questions to guide student learning. The best part is, sims can also be downloaded from the PhET site for offline use.

Sandra Gady  (Renton, WA)
Sandra Gady (Renton, WA)

  • on Fri Apr 01, 2011 8:47 AM

Simulations are a great teaching tool, especially when experiments require unavailable equipment or are too dangerous to perform in the classroom. This article tells about the PhET Interactive Simulations Project at the University of Colorado which is a great resource for teachers to use to supplement their curriculum. The article describes the types of simulations available—in physics, chemistry, biology, Earth science, and math—and matches them with the AAAS 2009 Benchmarks. The article gives examples of the types of simulations and the inquiry processes that students will use as they perform a simulation. Especially if you’re not familiar with these PhET simulations, this article give a comprehensive overview of these (free) online learning resources.

Kathy Sparrow  (Delray Beach, FL)
Kathy Sparrow (Delray Beach, FL)

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