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Top 5 Interactive Life Science Websites

This one is for the science teachers. Whether you are exhausted, need a good sub plan, or want to try something different, an interactive lesson is a great way to engage students. Here are a few of the PROMISE team’s favorite interactive life science websites and why we love them.

1. Solve the Outbreak 
Summary: Students choose from a variety of missions to contain and respond to an outbreak. Students proceed through various expertise levels as they answer questions correctly. Student learn to evaluate data, gather evidence, and make decisions. Students will learn about contact tracing, pathogen transmission methods, and characteristics.   
Grade Level: 7th-12th grade  
Cost: Free 
Our Take: This activity is a great way for students to understand the responsibilities of those who manage disease outbreaks and learn about pathogens. Moreover, it is fun and challenging! Students have the ability to access the 508 Accessible Version, which will allow them to have the case studies read aloud. The reading level is around 9th grade so the read aloud function is a big plus. This activity is available for download as a mobile app. Teacher lesson plans and resources are available that align with Next Generation Science Standards. 

2. NOVA Labs: Evolution Lab
Summary:  Students progress through a series of puzzles to create phylogenic trees. Students learn about evolutionary relationships, classification, and the traits of different organisms. It starts very simple and guides students through their first few trees. It becomes more complex as they progress. Students will begin to recognize patterns, which will allow them to build more complicated trees. 
Grade Level: 7th-12th grade  
Cost: Free 
Our Take: Learning about evolution and phylogenic trees can be abstract and tedious. This activity makes evolution tangible and engaging. Students can log in through Google, which allows them to save their progress. They can also log in with a guest pass, which will not save their progress. The home screen shows progress through the different missions, which would allow a teacher to monitor student engagement. There are support materials available to teachers to help anchor this activity to classroom learning. 

3.  Virtual Urchin
Summary:  This site has many interactive tutorials that center around Sea Urchin biology. Students can learn about microscope use, embryology, gene function, ecology, and anatomy from this site. Their recent funding from the National Science Foundation will be allowing them to include more tutorials soon.  
Grade Level: 6th-12th grade  
Cost: Free 
Our Take: We love the microscope tutorials on this page. It allows students to gain an understanding of the working parts before they use a microscope. This would be a great resource for students learning from home. We are looking forward to checking back to see what new tutorials are added.  

4. Restriction Enzyme Digest (LabXchange)
Summary: This simulation gives students the chance to perform a restriction digest of DNA. This virtual lab bench asks students to follow a protocol and use pipettes, a water bath, and a centrifuge.    
Grade Level: 9th-12th grade  
Cost: Free 
Our Take: If you cannot get your hands on real lab equipment, this simulation gives students a good picture of how a biomedical research lab works. This simulation would also be a great activity to do before the students try to perform a digest in the lab. There are also supporting interactive lessons and videos to help students understand the big picture.  There are many great interactives on this website and we picked just one. We encourage you to explore this site and use the activities that work best for you.

5. NOVA Labs: RNA Virtual Lab
Summary:  Students learn how to build RNA molecules and how they can take on complex shapes, such as tRNA. Students are led through a tutorial to teach them the basic rules and then are challenged to create different RNA molecules. Along the way, students learn about the function of each of the different RNA molecules.
Grade Level: 7th-12th grade  
Cost: Free 
Our Take: The structure and function of RNA is typically a topic that is taught quickly. This interactive activity really brings RNA to life. There are many different puzzles to try, which get more challenging. There are teacher guides available to help teachers provide scaffolding for the activity.  

Note: With all interactive webpages, teachers may need to evaluate whether the webpage is blocked by district firewalls before deciding to use it. Software updates may be required to be able to experience the full activity. This blog article is not sponsored.