Why I Switched to PhET Interactive Simulation Labs

Picture this: It’s Friday afternoon and you have just finished a great week of teaching. Everyone is getting ready to leave, but you are already thinking about Monday. You don’t want to spend the weekend preparing for next week’s classes so you stay until you have the first day of the week planned. Double whammy, Monday is also lab day for 10th grade physics and you will be starting a new unit on electricity and electric circuits. That means organising all of the equipment for your series and parallel resistors lab.

Do you have enough cables?, Where are the power supplies?, Are the bulbs burnt out?, Who took all of your switches and never put them back?, Don’t three of the multimeters need new batteries? Not to mention, because of the coronavirus distance restrictions you can’t really do group labs anymore. That is when you remember that a colleague told you about PhET Simulations from the University of Colorado.

Learning about Energy Conservation with the PhET Skate Park Simulation

PhET simulations are free to everyone and have so many benefits. Students enjoy them because they are visual, intuitive and make connections to real world situations. Most are now developed in HTML5 so they run right in the web browser of your tablet or computer; no apps or programs to download and install. The simulations are designed and developed based on research into how students learn. But what I like most about them is their interactivity. Students can easily manipulate the simulations to see the relationship between the different variables they are exploring. The results are accurate and replicable, allowing students to explore, collect data and draw conclusions from first-hand experiences.

In the Circuit Construction Kit simulations, students can add and remove resistors and directly observe changes in bulb brightness, current and the voltage drop across various circuit elements. In the Pendulum Lab simulation, students manipulate the length, mass, angle of displacement and even the gravity to see what factors affect its period. The Energy Skate Park simulation has several different graphical representations of the skater’s motion allowing the user to make connections between height, velocity, potential energy and kinetic energy. Students can even build their own skate park to further reinforce their observations.

With my PhET simulation teaching materials to guide you and no lab equipment to set up, you can relax and enjoy your weekend. And you’ll be ready to meet your students in class with some engaging new inquiry-based activities.

Step by Step Science Teaching Materials

Finding the right resources to help students learn a topic can be one of the most frustrating and time-consuming parts of a teacher’s job. For every hour of class time, teachers commonly invest many hours to prepare an instructive and engaging session for their students.

I found this material to be extremely helpful and very professional. It’s the complete package, ranging from accurate and brief descriptions and notes to linked videos and a great interactive lab. Thank you!

Teacher, 10th – 12th Grade

Like other teachers, I’ve spent countless hours searching for and creating just the right materials for my science classes. So I was thrilled to discover Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT), a popular marketplace for original educational resources. TpT materials are created by educators, classroom-tested, and available for free or a reasonable price. After finding some great resources to use with my students, I decided to join the platform and offer my own original physics materials.

My TpT resources are designed to accompany the free videos from my Step by Step Science YouTube channel. I combine handouts, worksheets, and presentations in comprehensive sets that reduce preparation time for teachers. You can just download, review and head for the classroom. The combination of teaching materials and videos gives teachers an integrated resource mix that is especially valuable for distance learning. But don’t take my word for it. Try one of my free resources for yourself: Free Sample: Resistors in Series

Many content creators are making educational videos nowadays. Others are making instructional materials. I’m doing both, producing high quality resources that guide students through the world of physics so that they can learn with confidence and be successful in school. Over the next year I’ll be offering more materials on the most important high school physics topics. If you’re a physics teacher, visit the Step by Step Science TpT Store to check out all of my available resources.

Step by Step Science YouTube Channel: How It Began

Every story has a beginning. My YouTube story begins in 2008 when I was teaching science at Bozeman High School in Bozeman, Montana. Too many textbooks had complicated or unclear explanations of the topics I needed to teach. I wanted to break down the concepts into simpler steps, not just for my students but for others who needed help too.

Some of my first video topics were optics, motion graphs, and radioactive decay. These remain some of my most popular videos. Students told me from the start that my explanations helped them to succeed on homework assignments, tests and quizzes. Making science videos became a hobby for me, a hobby driven by positive feedback from students, parents and teachers.

Last year I received my Silver Play Button, YouTube’s reward for reaching 100,00 channel subscribers. These days I’m still passionate about making videos and I’m pairing them with instructional materials that are ready for classroom use. Visit my Step by Step Science YouTube Channel and TeachersPayTeachers Store to access all of my great physics, chemistry and math content.

I started this blog to share my twenty years of experience as a high school science teacher. I’ll be writing about teaching strategies, best practices, classroom activities, and more in the coming months. Please subscribe to my blog and post a comment or get in touch if you have topics you would like me to write about.

Thanks! After hours of reading my textbook until I have a headache and filling a recycling bin with crumpled up papers, I got the concept in 5 minutes thanks to this video! I wish I could like this video once for each incorrect answer in those hours…..

Step by step channel viewer