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PhET™ Labs

PhET Lab experiments represent real interactive, and research-based simulations of physical phenomena from the PhET™ project at the University of Colorado. For teachers and students around the world, the PhET project provides interactive simulations that are based on extensive education research and support more effective science education. Going beyond traditional educational resources, PhET simulations offer an intuitive, game-like environment where students can learn through scientist-like exploration, where dynamic visual representations make the invisible visible, and where science ideas are connected to real-world phenomena. Unlike most educational software, PhET simulations are free, easily translated into multiple languages, and available either online or offline, especially important for areas with poor or no internet connectivity. With their flexible design, the simulations can be used in many ways - as demos, homework, or inexpensive yet accurate and realistic lab alternatives.

All PhET simulations are freely available from the PhET website and are easy to use and incorporate into the classroom. They are written in Java and Flash, and can be run using a standard web browser as long as Flash and Java are installed.

Explore a few of the PhET Labs simulations on several Science disciplines:

Online Activity Labs: Topics:
Gene Machine; The Lac Operon
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Build a gene network! The lac operon is a set of genes which are responsible for the metabolism of lactose in some bacterial cells. Explore the effects of mutations within the lac operon by adding or removing genes from the DNA.

Details and get access to Gene Machine; The Lac Operon

Check out Gene Machine; The Lac Operon
Membrane Channels
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Insert channels in a membrane and see what happens. See how different types of channels allow particles to move through the membrane.

Details and get access to Membrane Channels

Check out Membrane Channels
Natural Selection
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Explore natural selection by controlling the environment and causing mutations in bunnies.

Details and get access to Natural Selection

Check out Gene Machine; The Lac Operon
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Stimulate a neuron and monitor what happens. Pause, rewind, and move forward in time in order to observe the ions as they move across the neuron membrane.

Details and get access to Neuron

Check out Natural Selection
Stretching DNA
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Explore stretching just a single strand of DNA using optical tweezers or fluid flow. Experiment with the forces involved and measure the relationship between the stretched DNA length and the force required to keep it stretched. Is DNA more like a rope or like a spring?

Details and get access to Stretching DNA

Check out Stretching DNA


Smart Science® Online Science Labs

Below, you will find a small selection from the Smart Science library of nearly 200 online science labs. View a dozen labs designed for CSU general education biology courses. Use any of these labs free in your courses as part of the CSU system-wide virtual lab initiative.

Smart Science real online science labs provide instructors and students with uniquely hands-on real lab experiments instead of simulations. Students collect data interactively from real experiments point-by-point using their own care and judgment just as in traditional labs. They predict or hypothesize before or during the experimental activity.

The Smart Science approach ensures that students understand the nature of science, learn scientific thinking skills, and come to appreciate the complexity and ambiguity of empirical work. Smart Science labs include quizzes and online lab reports showing all student lab data and more.

Smart Science labs are delivered in HTML5 for compatibility with all modern platforms.

Online Activity Labs: Topics:
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Real lab. Students classify cells on a slide according to stages of mitosis. The bar graph compares the quantities of cells in each stage. A variety of slides are available for analysis.

Details and get access to Mitosis.

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Seed Germination and Pollution
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Real lab. Petri dishes with sponges and 20 seeds each are tracked over a long time. The sponge contains water (control) and different concentrations of contaminants: HCl, NaOH, NaCl, and isopropyl alcohol. Students click on each seed as it germinates using their own judgment to determine when the germination is visible.

Details and get access to Seed Germination and Pollution.

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Animal Behavior
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Real lab. Pill bugs (aka sow bugs or isopods) are placed in a "choice" apparatus consisting of two Petri dishes connected and with porous paper on the bottom. The two halves have different solutions applied (except for the control). Ten bugs are initially placed on each side. Student count and record the number of bugs on one side for 75 seconds. They then apply chi-square analysis to determine whether the bugs have a preference or not.

Details and get access to Animal Behavior.

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Photosynthesis and Light
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Real lab. Students track circular leaf segments as they float to the surface of a carbonate solution. The experiments use red, yellow, green, and blue light at a single intensity and white light at four intensities. As photosynthesis proceeds, the leaf sections fill with oxygen gas to make them float.

Details and get access to Photosynthesis & Light.

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Plant Transpiration
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Real lab. Students observe plant cuttings in different environments: room, wind, heat, and plastic bag. A potometer holds the cuttings, and students track the drop in the water level in the capillary.

Details and get access to Plant Transpiration.

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Please contact Smart Science at 855-4-SCIENCE (855-472-4362) or email us at to get started now.

For additional contact information and to learn more about Smart Science, see this announcement.


LearnSmart Labs

Created with the same world-class adaptive technology as LearnSmart, LearnSmart Labs is a revolutionary, outcome-based lab simulation. It assesses a student's knowledge and adaptively corrects deficiencies before they enter the real lab space. Students learn faster, achieve greater understanding of both conceptual and practical skills, and retain more knowledge so that their actual laboratory experience is more focused, less wasteful, and ultimately more successful.

Online Activity Labs: Topics:
Microscopy Biology
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Students learn how to operate the parts of a light microscope, and how to prepare a wet mount slide. Students then apply these skills to observe human epithelial and onion epidermal cells in one module, and different types of microorganisms found in pond water in a second module.

Details and get access to Microscopy Biology

Cell Anatomy
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Students compare and contrast the cell anatomy of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells in one module. In a second module, students examine the differences in cell anatomy between animal and plant cells. Students observe elodea leaves in solutions of different tonicity in order to locate examples of cell membranes, central vacuoles, chloroplasts, and cell walls.

Details and get access to Cell Anatomy

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Students learn the core concepts of diffusion. The diffusion in different media module allows students to investigate how concentration gradients affect the rate of diffusion, and how molecules diffuse through different densities of media (semi-solid, liquid, or air). The diffusion across a membrane experiment allows students to explore how the properties of different molecules affect their abilities to diffuse across a selectively permeable membrane.

Details and get access to Diffusion

pH & Cells
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Students investigate how the human body regulates pH and combats excessive acidity. Students first design an experiment that tests the properties of artificial cytoplasm. A second experiment allows students to investigate which antacid is the most effective at neutralizing stomach acid.

Details and get access to pH & Cells

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Students review the core concepts involved with photosynthesis. Students first learn how to use paper chromatography, and then use a volumeter to measure the rate of photosynthesis in an elodea plant exposed to white and green light. In the fourth experiment, students identify the uptake of carbon dioxide due to photosynthesis using a phenol red solution.

Details and get access to Photosynthesis

Sampling Ecosystems
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Students investigate the abiotic and biotic factors affecting ecosystems. Students sample a specific site for available plants and animals, and then calculate the Simpson's biodiversity index for this ecosystem. In the second module, students compare two sampling sites to evaluate the differences in abiotic and biotic factors due to various changes in the environment, such as elevation, or proximity to water.

Details and get access to Sampling Ecosystems


Biology Simulations in MERLOT sorted by sub-categories:

Website: Topics:
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ADD Free Virtual Labs You're Using or Authored Into MERLOT

Are you using free Virtual Lab materials you found on the web in your teaching or your learning? Have you posted free Virtual Labs online that are open for others to use? We invite you to catalog these Virtual Labs you use or authored in MERLOT. Your colleagues and students around the world will thank you!


First: Become a member of MERLOT (It will take about 2 minutes and it’s FREE).

Second: Log in to MERLOT and click to Submit a Material. (It will take about 4 minutes the first time and step-by-step instructions for contributing materials to MERLOT are available).

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