Apply and Extend Science Skills and Concepts With Virtual Simulations, Labs, and Interactive Science Materials

Explore virtual science tools that can empower students in your science classroom to engage in or create simulations, labs, and interactive science materials in a digital environment.

Grades K-12 15 min Resource by:
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Science materials, supplies, and equipment can be very expensive, time consuming, and difficult to access in your classroom. Providing access to scientific simulations, virtual labs, and interactive science materials can be very useful for teaching and learning and provide access and opportunities that are not available in the analogue classroom. There is value in both providing opportunities for students to run simulations or labs on a model that has already been created for them and also providing opportunities for students to create their own models.

The tools on this page focus on scientific simulations, virtual labs, and interactive science materials. Nearly all are free, or have components that are free, and are easily accessible on most digital platforms.


  • HTML5 Simulations for Physics: This extensive collection of physics simulations offers over 200 simulations about climate, vectors, motion, forces, momentum and energy, gravitation, rotation, fluids, heat, waves, electric charge and field, magnetism, and more. Choose a simulation from the list and interact with it immediately.
  • Gizmos: Gizmos offers math and science simulations for grades 3–12. Through these activities, students become scientists and mathematicians. You can search by standard, grade, and topic. A subscription is required for many of the activities, but there’s also a selection of free Gizmos through the Current Free Gizmos page. A free trial option is also available.
  • This site provides biology simulations, with the computational models on the site being described by the creator as “thought experiments run on a computer.” Topics include cell transport, ecology, enzymes, evolution, genetics, metabolism, molecular biology, physiology, physics, and more.
  • NetLogo: This site offers a free programmable modeling environment for simulating natural and social phenomena. Students can open simulations and explore behavior under various conditions and/or create their own models.
  • PhET: This collection of online simulations by the University of Colorado Boulder includes options for math and science concepts and applications. Nearly all of the simulations are HTML5, so they will work in any browser. Activities are standards-aligned.
  • Physics Simulations: This website from myPhysicsLab provides many interactive physics simulations that allow students to interact with them and change parameters.
  • Scratch: This drag-and-drop programming platform allows students to create their own simulations or explore simulations that others have created using the search feature.
  • Virtual Microscope: Students have the opportunity to use a virtual polarizing microscope to examine minerals and microscopic features of rocks. This site also provides free teaching resources.

Virtual Labs

  • ChemCollective: This site is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Education. It provides virtual chemistry labs, virtual lab problems, tutorials, real-world scenarios, online courses, simulations, and more. View this page for more details.
  • MERLOT: This site offers a directory of open-source virtual labs. Browse, filter, and search. Some resources link out to other sites. Tabs at the top allow you to explore resources from MERLOT as well as other libraries.
  • NOVA Labs: Choose a subject from the left navigation pane. Options include exoplanet, polar, evolution, RNA, cloud, energy, and the sun. Quality content is integrated into these virtual labs and games. A login is optional, and these may be most appropriate for teen learners.
  • Virtual Labs: This site contains eight different simulations to help students learn basic laboratory techniques, including using a microscope, gram sampling, bacteria sampling, testing for corn mold mycotoxins, controlling water activity, and more. The site is sponsored by several American universities. appropriate for teen learners.
  • Virtual Labs and Interactives: This Wakelet provides links to many virtual labs and interactives. There are over 150 resources.

Interactive Science Materials

  • BioDigital Human Studio: This site offers 3D anatomy exploration. Free registration is required to use the site, and some parts require a premium account to access.
  • ChemReference: This well-designed, interactive periodic table lets you click an element for detailed information about properties, orbitals, and visualizations. Links to Wikipedia, WebElements and Wolfram are included.
  • ChemTube3D: Discover interactive 3D chemistry animations and structures. This content is intended for students studying advanced school chemistry.
  • Gizmos: Gizmos offers math and science inquiry activities that prompt learners to graph, measure, compare, predict, and prove. Through these activities, students become scientists and mathematicians. Search by standard (grades 3–12). A subscription is required for many of the activities, but some are available for free. A free trial option is also available.
  • Google Earth: Use this powerful, interactive tool to virtually view any place on Earth. Views are based on satellite imagery, aerial photography, and GIS data. Enter an address, coordinates, or explore manually. View in 2D, 3D, and street view.
  • Google Sky: This interactive tool provides a way to browse and explore the universe. Students can find the positions of stars, planets, and constellations in the sky.
  • How Big is Space?: This blog post from Control Alt Achieve provides a summary of tools and simulations for studying the size of space. Featured content includes “If the Moon Were Only 1 Pixel,” “Space Race,” “Scale of the Universe,” and “The Size of Space.”
  • Learn.Genetics: This site from the University of Utah offers videos, interactives, and other resources for the study of genetics, bioscience, and health. Subcategories include genetics, evolution, cell biology, human health, plants, neuroscience, ecology, and science tools.
  • National Geographic MapMaker: This is a free and easy-to-use mapping tool that offers a variety of basemaps and data layers. Drawing tools are available to annotate and personalize your map. There are also example ideas and lessons for teachers. You must log in to a free account in order to save maps.
  • PBS Kids Design Squad: Explore engineering resources made for middle school. The “Design Squad” empowers middle school kids to solve real-world problems and understand the impact of engineering in a global context. Content is refreshed weekly with challenges, videos, and activities. Tabs at the top prompt students to watch, design, build, and play games.
  • PBS LearningMedia: This free site is packed with learning materials for preK–12. Filter by grade or learning type. Learning types include videos, interactive lessons, a media gallery,  lesson plans, and more. Resources are available for Earth and space science; life science; physical science; practices and nature of science; and instrumentation, measurement, and units.
  • The Physics Classroom: This site is packed with virtual interactives for physics, including tutorials, concept builders, videos, and more. Multiple interactives are available to explore topics such as kinematics, vectors, forces, momentum, electricity, waves and sound.
  • Ptable: This is a colorful, well-designed, interactive periodic table. Click on part of the table to explore and discover rich content. You can explore properties, electrons, isotopes, compounds, and more.
  • Solve the Outbreak: This interactive problem-solving challenge is provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are two levels of interactive challenges—Level 1 and Level 2—for a total of 20 challenges. When you click on a level, you can select the outbreak to solve. Each game provides clues and questions to earn points in solving the outbreak.