Using PhET Simulations in Your NGSS Classroom

Developing and Using Models Google Apps NGSS NGSS Newbies Science and Engineering Practices

I can recommend using PhET Simulations in your NGSS classroom enough.  Phet Simulations are a free and valuable tool that is available and easy to use with Chromebooks.

Types of Models

One of the Science and Engineering Practices that are are highlighted in the NGSS is Developing and Using Models.

  • diagrams
  • drawings
  • physical replicas
  • mathematical representations
  • analogies
  • computer simulations.

The Modeling Requirement

Modeling is a fantastic resource that is often underutilized in the science classroom.  While many teachers guide students in making a models, students are often following a list of instructions to replicate a model that has been developed by the teacher.

NGSS requires that students start to do the following by THIRD GRADE: (See requirements by grade level)

  • Identify limitations of models.
  • Develop and/or use models to describe and/or predict phenomena.
  • Use a model to test cause and effect relationships or interactions concerning the functioning of a natural or designed system.

Middle School Expectations

By the end of middle school, students should be able to do all of the things listed in the image to the right.



WHAT?!?! That used (and it often still does) intimidate me.  Especially because many of use work in districts where students are not receiving specific science instruction until 6th or 7th grade.  But that is a topic for another day.

PhET Simulations are useful, effective and easy way allow students to use models in your classroom.  They have numerous simulations for the following courses

PhET Simulations are great because:

  • They are highly engaging.  Students love to play with them.
  • They allow students to manipulate variables.
  • They provides students with fantastic examples of models that still have limitations.  This allows you to teach students to identify limitations of a model.
  • Many of their simulations are able to run on Chromebooks and tablets and even student phones!*

*Some require Java, but the PhET team is always converting sims to HTML so that they can run on other devices.

I use PhET simulations in my classroom regularly.  I create worksheets using google docs and have students answer their questions on their Chromebooks and submit them through google classroom.  There are activities and guides available on the PhET website.

Resources I Have Created

Here are a list of resources that I currently have available on my Teachers Pay Teachers site that use PHET simulations:

I am adding new resources all of the time.

If you would like more information about PhET simulation please visit:

PhET Interactive Simulations
University of Colorado Boulder

What questions do you have about using PhET simulations in your classroom?

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2 thoughts on “Using PhET Simulations in Your NGSS Classroom”

  1. PhET is excellent, but some simulations are bit complex for middle/high school kids. Also checkout SimPop for free online science simulations. Kids enjoy tinkering with these simulations, and that’s a great way to explore science.

    1. I actually haven’t found them to be too complicated. They can go into more detail than I would like to cover, but I use guided lessons with screenshots and that is really helpful. I will also check out SimPop though. Thanks for the suggestion.

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