Websites Help K-12 Students Build Science Knowledge

By Rob Klindt

A good grasp of practical concepts in everyday science is important in K-12 education because many 21st century jobs are increasingly requiring workers to be versed in scientific principles. Fortunately, the Web has an abundance of sites to help students discover the mysteries of science, boost their scientific knowledge and prepare for the workplace.

Earth sciences, astronomy, biology and chemistry are among the disciplines students need to know to compete in the national and global workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of today’s fastest-growing industries require workers with knowledge of basic science. These industries include:

  • Agricultural and food science
  • Biotechnology
  • Computer science
  • Environmental science
  • Healthcare
  • Renewable energy

In addition, many technical, engineering and research jobs need workers who have college degrees in specific science-related areas. For students planning to pursue science in college, an increasing number of schools nationwide are offering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs.

Here are some of the best basic science websites educators can turn to for free and low-cost lesson plans and classroom activities to keep students engaged and learning:

General science

  • 24/7 Science. This site boasts an impressive collection of interactive games, experiments and quizzes for students in grades one through six. Subjects include earth science, biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology. Developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science, the site also includes professional development tips for educators. Free.
    Visit the site
  • BrainPOP Science. Biology, anthropology and astronomy are among the topics in this engaging site, which uses videos, quizzes and interactive games to teach middle school students. The content is mapped to Common Core guidelines. Free; a premium version with more content is available for a subscription fee.
    Visit the site
  • Science Netlinks. Teachers searching for lesson plans and tools for K-12 science classes will appreciate this site, which provides links to a multitude of quality resources. The site’s searchable database can help find lesson plans aligned with STEM and Common Core guidelines. Free.
    Visit the site

Chemistry

By letting students conduct chemistry experiments online, teachers can save on the costs of buying equipment, supplies and chemicals.

  • ChemCollective. Funded by the National Science Foundation, this site allows high school students to design and implement their own basic chemistry experiments in a virtual laboratory. Activities include lab problem simulations, concept tests, tutorials and course modules. Free.
    Visit the site
  • The Periodic Table of Comic Books. For budding young chemists, learning the Periodic Table of Elements is fun when comic book heroes come to life and explain the secrets of the elements. Developed by the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, the program is designed for middle school students. Free.
    Visit the site

Geography and earth sciences

Global warming, climate change and renewable energy sources are among the 21st century topics increasingly being studied in many classrooms.

  • Google Maps Education. In addition to a vast virtual collection of detailed geographical images from around the world, this site offers teachers excellent lesson plans, classroom activities and interactive mapping tools for teaching earth sciences, geography and mathematics. Basic tools are free; educational grants are available for professional versions with enhanced features.
    Visit the site
  • Kinetic City is one of the many excellent science-related websites for K-12 studentsKinetic City. This collection of colorful and fast-paced video games, science experiments and activities will keep elementary and middle school students engaged while learning. Topics cover geology, earth science, climatology, astronomy, physics and biology. Free; registration required.
    Visit the site
  • USGS Education. The U.S. Geological Survey offers a host of videos, animations, maps and online lectures covering biology, geography and geology on this site for K-12 students. Teachers can find interactive classroom activities and downloadable fact sheets. Most resources are free; some are available for a fee.
    Visit the site

Astronomy

From detecting and tracking celestial objects with computers to calculating tides and eclipses using mathematics, the Web offers a galaxy of tools that can help teachers develop astronomy lessons and classroom activities.

  • The Space Place. This NASA-sponsored site offers an overview of astronomy and the planets for K-12 students. A separate area for parents and educators includes an extensive collection of NASA images of the solar system, sun, planets and galaxies, along with lesson plans, classroom activities, quizzes and a question-and-answer forum. Free.
    Visit the site
  • Worldwide Telescope. This downloadable program turns a computer into a desktop observatory allowing immersive views of the sky from all continents and multimedia links to interactive descriptions and explanations of millions of celestial objects. Developed by Microsoft Research, the program works with computers running Windows 7 or 8. A browser-based Web client is available for Apple Macintosh users. Free.
    Visit the site

Because science is playing an increasing role in the national and world economy, teachers need to make sure students are well-versed in all areas so that they are prepared to enter and compete in a global 21st century workforce.

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