Connecting dots of digital learning

40 Sites for Free and Quality Science Learning Games

Digital educational games, interactives, virtual labs are excellent resources to assist learning and raising interests for inquiry or investigation. To visualize concepts or to do experiments on computers are cost-effective and efficient. Some games even use role-playing techniques or story lines. Some games create a virtual journey which is impossible to have in real world. We just featured Zombie Plague recently and thought we should give a review on all those quality sources of science learning games. Most sites are from education institutions, non-profit organizations or sponsored by grants, they are free to play. (Simulations are not included in this post, we’ll try to make another post for them)

Engineering Interact is free, interactive, science courseware for 9-11 year olds, developed by the Univeristy of Cambridge Department of Engineering. There are five games covering the five sub-topics: light, sound, forces & motion, earth & beyond and electricity. Each game contains a number of interactive modules, split into three sections: learning, testing and engineering applications.

Edheads helps students learn through educational games and activities. Choose from Simple Machines, Virtual Knee Surgery or Stem Cell Heart Repair, among others.All the activities at the Edheads site will have connections to National and State standards in their teacher sections.

learning games

Bitesize Science site has over 25 free scientific games on everything from food chains to solids, liquids and gases. Each topic has a game, a study guide, and a quiz to test what you have learned. This site from BBC is for lower elementary school kids.

Science Museum.org offers sixteen free online science games for students in elementary schools, the topics include energy, genetics, environmental science. Each game is accompanied by a set of links to support and complement the content that game addresses.

ECOkids let students learn scientific concepts needed to preserve our planet and make it a better place for the future, including acid rain, the importance of recycling, animal adaptations, energy efficiency… and more. Started in 1994, EcoKids is a free, environmental education program that offers curriculum-linked materials and activities for Canadian elementary schools to engage in environmental action.

NASA Kids Club and NASA Space Place are science games from NASA for learning space traveling, weather, planets and solar system… Want to go with Buzz lightyear to infinity and beyond ? Almost all of the games, articles, and activities on The Space Place have something to do with a particular NASA mission.

Learning Technologies(LT)  is NASA’s educational-technology incubator, the cornerstone of the research and development is combining advanced educational technologies with NASA content, producing learning tools that engage and inspire today’s tech-savvy students. The NASA LT team is active in virtual worlds and 3D games.

  • LT is partnering in the development of Astronaut: Moon, Mars and Beyond, a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG) that will include science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning and career exploration. This game environment will provide NASA virtual, immersive educational experience to students and educators and will allow us to evaluate its effectiveness on student engagement and learning.
  • NASA learning gameMoonbase Alpha is a NASA-funded multiplayer game scenario with 20 minutes of play set on a hypothetical lunar outpost in 3-D immersive setting. This is a proof of concept to show NASA content – lunar architecture in this case – and a cutting edge game engine could be combined to produce a fun game and inspire interest in STEM education. Moonbase Alpha will be released in early 2010.
  • LT is researching virtual worlds as platforms for learning, collaboration, networking and event delivery. We manage NASA eEducation Island in Second Life and are using this space to facilitate NASA education projects’ entry into virtual worlds.
  • Building on prior research and development, LT’s Information Accessibility Lab is collaborating with multiple industry and academic partners   → on methods of making 3D virtual worlds accessible to the blind and visually-impaired.

Selene – Originally funded by NASA and now carried on through a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation,Selene studies video game learning and the ways researchers can assess how effectively that learning takes place. The Center for Educational Technologies® at Wheeling Jesuit University created theSelene online game to see how organizations like NASA could best use videogames to introduce important science concepts. (for age 9-18)

The Jason Project online games and digital labs capture a student’s attention and sustain their interest. These games teach important concepts of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and are designed with the practical realities of the classroom in mind. Teachers can search for games and labs by state and national standards in the JASON Mission Center, where you will also find worksheets and handouts. The games were free before, but you need to purchase online access now. Below are just a few examples of JASON’s Games and Digital Labs:

  • The Operation: Resilient Planet Game - In this immersive 3D experience, students assist JASON Host Researchers like Dr. Bob Ballard in solving real-world ecological issues. Using scientific inquiry, along with instruments and procedures mirroring those of the researchers, students aim for the best score on our JASON Leaderboard.
  • Coaster Creator - Have you ever ridden a roller coaster and thought “Hmmm, I think I could design a better one?” Well now is your chance! Using your knowledge of potential and kinetic energy, create a roller coaster that delivers the most thrills, yet still remains safe for the passengers.
  • StormTracker - A hurricane is approaching the U.S. coastline, what should residents do? In StormTracker, it’s up to JASON students to accurately predict the path and intensity of hurricanes barreling towards shore. Using real tropical storm data this lab gives students the hands-on experience of playing the role of storm-tracker.
  • Energy City - Imagine a world where non-renewable resources, such as coal and oil, are in short supply! What can we do now to prepare for this future event? In this JASON Digital Lab, you will create a new energy portfolio for a city. Research new sources of energy and take another look at renewable and inexhaustible sources that were once considered “alternative” such as sunlight and wind.
  • learning gameTransform It! - From plants last photosynthesizing millions of years ago to the planes, trains, and (of course) robots in our lives–energy transfers and transforms throughout the universe. Transform It! invites players to harness energy in its various forms to put a city, a giant robot or a farm to work. Deliver energy efficiently, and avoid under-powering or overpowering your goal!
  • Landform Detectives - A violent explosion occurs suddenly and a landscape is altered for generations. Across the world, 7,000 years of raindrops delicately and slowly weave a haunting landscape. Thick, crushing sheets of ice melt away to give rise to great cities, and deep in our primordial past, the most awe-inspiring mountains were sludge at the bottom of a forgotten sea.
  • Mastermines - What treasures hide beneath your feet? Join Dr. Mike Wise, and Argos Emily, Connor, Maria, and Cindy as they travel around the Americas to various mines. Investigate rare caverns and caves, and take your findings back to the lab, where you can identify your mysterious crystals! You can play as one of three Argonauts while Emily and Dr. Wise will guide you.

NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has over 25 free games and interactive activities that cover topics about water, air, the oceans, environmental issues and ocean life. It highlights the science and the activities of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other agencies and organizations promoting environmental stewardship.

Succeeding with Science contains many different interactive activities and downloadable resources. There are resources here for both primary and secondary (and post-16) teachers on a number of different topics such as electricity, states of matter, carbon footprints and radioactivity, it’s created by Sellafield Nuclear Power Station (UK). The games are grouped into age 4-7, 7-11, 11-14, 14-16, 16+. Recently, it just released a new online STEM resource, The Skills Factor, it gives pupils insights into how engineering solutions have been devised to overcome challenges in several exciting and important ‘real world’ scenarios. This new interactive resource for Years 6 – 9 contains 5 online units: Mission To Mars, We Are The Robots, Flood Alert, Fuelling The Future and Smart Structures.

Immune Attack teaches immunology in a fun and engaging way that is different from the traditional classroom setting, making use of the “challenge and reward” paradigm found in most video games, created by The Federation of American Scientists(FAS). The funding is supported by the Entertainment Software Association Foundation and NSF. It’s an adventure in human body.

Cellcraft is a real time strategy game in which you play the role of a cell trying to defeat a virus before they defeat you.  An excellent introduction to cell biology for middle school students.

learning games

Rice university Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning created several free quality online games according to middle school standards:

MedMyst teaches microbiology and the science method, it’s about hunting down infectious diseases

CSI: Web Adventure is just like the show, only you need to use your own brain to solve it. It’s from Rice University partnered with CBS, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, and the National Science Foundation and it has highest quality graphics and features.

N-Squad lets you take on the role of a forensic scientist, work with other experts to solve an alcohol-related crimes.

Reconstructors is an interactive learning adventure investigating drugs of abuse and neuroscience.

Meta!Blast is a real-time 3D action-adventure game that puts you in the pilot’s seat. Shrink down to microscopic size and explore the vivid, dynamic world of a soybean plant cell spinning out of control. Interact with numerous characters, fight off plant pathogens, and discover how important plants are to the survival of the human race. By immersing players into a virtual cell environment and allowing them to interact with it on their own terms, the developers hope that players will come to a greater understanding of the cell than they could learn from traditional diagrams and textbooks. Supplemental materials are available for teachers and learners.

Mission Biotech is an interesting and fun virtual environment, first person adventure game using 3D graphics. It takes place in the virtual National Laboratory for Biotechnology and Bioinformatics (NLBB). Players are biotechnologists and have to diagnose a deadly virus that is turning into a pandemic. There is a page for teachers that has instructions on how to get their class started to use the game. It’s built by College of Education, University of Florida.

Spongelab is a platform that not only manages content but lets users search, find, organize, annotate, deploy and follow-up on the use of different types of  contents. It’s free to use. There are 213 items in “games and simulation” :

game and simulation

Filament Games produces lots of learning games, in the Science category you can find the following games: (you could tell the topics from their names, but they are not free any more)

science learning games

ClearLab project  is a project to create innovative 3D science games for middle school students. ClearLab games will be immersive and educational, and can be played in the browser – at school, the library, at home – anywhere with access to the internet. Teachers will be able to assign, manage and assess student game play from the web. developed by Muzzy Lane Software, Inc., in partnership with the Federation of American Scientists, curriculum developers from K12, Inc. and science teachers around the country.

Nobe lprize educational games – You don’t have to be a genius to understand the work of the Nobel Laureates. These games and simulations from Nobelprize.org, based on Nobel Prize-awarded achievements, will teach and inspire you while you’re having FUN! learning gamesThe 10 most popular games are:

1. The Blood Typing Game
2. The DNA – the Double Helix Game
3. The Immune System Game
4. The Control of the Cell Cycle Game
5. The Pavlov’s Dog Game
6. The Electrocardiogram Game
7. The Transistor
8. The Diabetic Dog Game
9. The Split Brain Experiments Game
10. The Lord of the Flies Game

Powerofresearch.eu is a free online 3D game and also a longterm strategy game where you follow the correct procedures of scientific research, develop your findings, publish your work and build up your reputation as one of the world’s leading scientists. Play the game directly in your browser, there is no scientific pre-knowledge needed. Choose one of thousands of different research topics, you can find all background information about the research areas and all the skills of your researcher in the virtual library. The game is supported by five Nobel Laureates and other famous researchers.

strategy learning game

Interactives on www.learner.org is a massive collection of quality science and math interactive modules and educational games. You can search by grades (K – college), by disciplines, by audiences.

Online Science Games for Kids collects free 2D  interactive science games, educational physics-based games, chemistry-based games, biology-based games, engineering/ construction science problem-solving games and brain-teaser thinking puzzles. Activities for the classroom/ home-schooling elementary/ middle school/ junior & high school students.

Animal Jam gives kids a mission in a virtual world where they can discover real-world plant and animal information and follow a rich storyline that has National Geographic’s multi-media content built in. Animal Jam features a full spectrum of play that caters to young kids at all skill levels and developmental stages.

Shedd Aquarium contains a treasure trove of aquatic science resources for K-12 teachers and students. SEA brings the Philippines to life for your students with fact sheets and multimedia interactives  interactives based on the Wild Reef exhibit at Shedd Aquarium. There are lesson plans for educators from kindergarden to grade 12.

Pest World for Kids is a fun educational website for elementary schooler to learn about insects and rodents. There is a great index of pests with related knowledge. Teachers can find lesson plans to accompany the educational games.

The Yuckiest Site on the Internet, hosted by Discovery Kids. Kids can learn about roaches, worms, cool and gross things about the body, science experiments for home, and playing science-based online games. Children can also ask  questions, and the answers will be posted along with the questions.

Planet Quest Alien Safari is an interactive exploration adventure that lets students to learn extreme organisms around the world.  Students will also learn about what the extreme organisms reveal about finding life in space.

Enercities is a game created to teach the importance of energy and conservation by the European Union.

24/7 Science by The Lawrence Hall of Science has science games and hands-on activities for elementary school students. There are a game section with 25 online games for students to play independently and 13 hands-on science learning activities that students can do with the supervision.

science learning game

Climate challenge is a game from BBC where the player is the president of the European Nations. The player must tackle climate change and stay popular enough with the voters to remain in office.

ElectroCity is an online computer game that lets players manage their own virtual towns and cities. It’s great fun to play and also teaches players all about energy, sustainability and environmental management in New Zealand.

The Blobz Guide to Electrical Circuits - learning about electricity and electrical circuits with a study guide and a quiz, play alone or play with friends

FloodSim puts you in control of all flood policy decisions and spending in the UK for 3 years. Whether its deciding how much money to allocate to flood defences, deciding where to build houses, or how best to inform people about the risk of flooding, you are in control.

Stop Disasters aims at teaching children how to build safer villages and cities against disasters. (Teacher resources available)

Wasteland adventure - The goal of the game is to help BOBO clean up trash and save the earth by progressing through the game, cleaning up the different environments and cleaning the world.

Game for Science is a site devoted to science and technology, health, aeronautics, genomics, environment, engineering and more, you can find fun educational games, interesting facts and fascinating photos and videos all on a science theme.  There are 32 games. It’s from CREO Inc.

Shape It Up is an activity that would be good for use in an elementary school Earth Science lesson about earth changing erosion. The activity presents students with “before” and “after” images of a piece of Earth. Students then have to select the force nature and the span of time it took to create the “after” picture.

Playnormous is an online world of nutrition and physical activity for kids age 6 to 12. With interactive video games and immersive stories, it teaches children to make healthy choices.

The Food Detectives Fight BAC!R game gives players a fun way to learn about foodborne illness.

Gravitee 2 is a “casual game” meant for entertainment but is an “addictive” and fun way to examine satellite/ falling body behavior.

science learning game

DARPA’s ENGAGE program seeks to develop interactive game-based technologies for pre-k through grade three students to inspire them to become future innovators by educating them in STEM skills. The goal is to create games that improve over time by analyzing play across a large population of anonymous users. As a result, ENGAGE hopes to not only produce valuable game-based teaching tools but to also provide insights into teaching techniques that can be applied to future products and classroom STEM learning. These are the games:

RumbleBlocks is an educational game teaches basic concepts of stability and balance, as well as engineering and problem-solving skills, that come from the National Research Council’s framework for K-12 Science education and the ASSET Science curricular units on stability and motion. The Research-based game concepts provide a clear avenue for student learning. In-game Feedback gives students information they need to support learning-by-doing.

The other game is beanstalk.etc.cmu.edu.

You are welcome to grow this list with free science games we might miss. There are more interesting ways to learn science other than digital games, check out “Top free resources for teaching and learning Science“. More science learning games with special focus can be found in these previous posts:

Beta Testing on Simulation Gaming in Classrooms

Epistemic Games Help Grow Literacy and Problem-Solving Skills

Games for Changes – Climate Challenge

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16 Responses »

  1. The Jason Project in NOT FREE.

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