“I need to pick up something at Target,” my wife, a second grade teacher said to me this weekend. I rolled my eyes, knowing that a chunk of our income was going to school supplies. Although I’ve never added it up, classroom spending is up. No doubt, that’s one of the reasons why science demonstrations have fizzled out: no personal money to buy Efferdent tablets or gummy worms named Fred. In this blog entry, we’ll explore a few virtual lab alternatives. You will also get access to an extensive list of curated virtual labs and activities at blog’s end.
Before we do that, take a look and be amazed at how much teachers spend each year on classroom supplies.
The Cost of Classroom Supplies
Shocking, isn’t it, that teachers like my wife spend anywhere from $750 to $1,000 every year? These out-of-pocket purchases on behalf of needy students are classroom supplies. Worse, spending has increased twenty-five percent since 2015. And the need for supplies becomes even more dire when students engage in remote learning.
Some 2021 statistics from Adopt a Classroom, a non-profit group, include:
- 55% of students had few or no supplies at home.
- 65% of teachers said students were less likely to take part because they did not have what they needed.
- 70% of teacher had to change lessons because they did not have needed resources.
- 95% of teacher said their classroom supply budget is insufficient.
With these statistics in mind, wouldn’t it be incredible to know about virtual tools? It makes one ask, what science-related, virtual labs are available? Here’s a short list.
Virtual Lab #1: Labster
Need a virtual science lab with 200+ immersive, 3D presentations? Want your high school students to work through real-life scenarios and try lab equipment? Then Labster may be a worthwhile investment.
Labster integrates with a wide variety of learning management systems, including:
- Google Classroom
Content is available in a variety of languages, including Spanish. What’s more, it has content covering biology, chemistry, physics, ecology, and more. You can see some of what’s available, for example, on the topic of evolution below.
As you might imagine, virtual labs like what Labster offers are not free. It may be cost-prohibitive since you have to fill out a form to get a quote.
Virtual Lab #2: PhET Interactive Simulations
Cultivate scientists with PhET. It offers 130 award-winning math and science interactive simulations. These work with students in third grade through adult. Since they are open educational resources (OERs), they are free to use and each simulation will work on any device.
Each PhET lesson, including simulations like this one, comes replete with resources. Included are a video primer, lesson ideas, and teacher-submitted activities. Give it a whirl, if you’re not using it already.
Virtual Lab #3: PraxiLabs
Need virtual labs for university biology, chemistry, or physics? Then you might take a look at PraxiLabs. It’s an award-winning solution available to educators, students, or to anyone.
For no cost in the free plan, you get six fixed experiments across all fields of study. In paid plans, you can mix and match from all experiments and select what you need for your curriculum plan. PraxiLabs offers a variety of supplementary content and unlimited repetitions of all simulations.
Virtual Lab #4: The Science Bank
Wish you could dissect a specimen at no cost? The Science Bank offers a free loan program. You can use this online dissection resource (organized by specimen) for free. Paid offerings are also available.
One of the offerings available is Dissection 101 Collection from PBS Learning. You can find educational videos, lesson plans, quizzes, and more. Specimens available include dogfish shark, earthworm, clam, crayfish, sea star, sheep heart, cow eyes, frog, and perch.
Virtual Lab #5: 3M Young Scientist Lab
Want to teach about wind energy, circuits, or other engaging activities? Then 3M Young Scientist Lab may be a source of worthwhile activities for you. It offers lesson plans and interactives.
Some of the lesson plans include:
- Fun with adhesives
- Light and shadow
- Absorption and reflection of solar energy
Wait, There’s More to See and Interact With
Looking for something more? In this short blog of interactive science virtual labs, you won’t find everything. You may want to look through this Interactive Science Wakelet Collection. It will share a curated list of more than 35 virtual labs and interactive science activities.
Feature image. Available online by BCBangkok, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons