PhET Interactive Simulations for teaching and learning in Earth and Energy Sciences

Wednesday 2:45pm REC Center Large Ice Overlook Room


Yuen-ying Carpenter, University of Colorado at Boulder
Katherine K. Perkins, University of Colorado at Boulder
Patricia Loeblein, University of Colorado at Boulder
PhET Interactive Simulations are free, online, interactive science and math simulations designed to promote engagement, exploration, and inquiry for students from middle school through college ( These simulations are interactive, game-like environments in which students learn through exploration and experimentation. Using extensive research and student interviews, the PhET team of scientists, developers and educators design simulations to emphasize the connections between real life phenomena and the underlying science and mathematics, make the invisible visible, and utilize the visual models and representations that experts use to aid their thinking.

Here we will highlight how PhET simulations can be used for teaching diverse topics in Earth Sciences, ranging from planetary orbits to river flows, or from plate tectonics to sustainable energy resource systems. We will discuss best practices for framing and designing simulation-based activities to foster student engagement and learning, as well highlight research insights from the project to help earth science educators at all levels leverage the simulations' design features to drive student inquiry.