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7 Fun Earth Science Virtual Labs that Align with NGSS

Ginelle Testa
High School
Earth Science
Teaching with Labster

Earth science enables students to think about themselves as citizens of this exquisite planet we live on, encouraging them to be positive contributors. According to the National Science Foundation, the earth has been around for 4.5 million years. That’s a lot of rich earth science history to study! 

Virtual labs are a fun way to teach high school science students about carbon emissions, biomes, plate tectonics, and more. We even have a simulation where students can jump into a spaceship and observe the effects of climate change over the years. Use these simulations as a pre-lab, post-lab, or as a virtual field trip!

Top 7 NGSS Earth Science Virtual Labs

Here are seven of our favorite simulations to help you teach earth science.

1.) Atmospheric Circulation, Climate, and Biomes: Determine the lab’s location! Virtual Lab NEW

Discover the patterns of atmospheric circulation and the role it plays in influencing local climates and biomes worldwide. Then use this knowledge to determine the biome and latitude of the lab!

Atmospheric Circulation, Climate, and Biomes Determine the lab’s location Virtual Lab

2.) Drivers of Plate Tectonics: Replicate Earth’s convection currents Virtual Lab NEW

Tectonic plates are always moving beneath you! In this simulation, you will investigate the process of convection, learn what drives the movement of tectonic plates, and perform an experiment with an extremely hot lava sample! 

Drivers of Plate Tectonics Replicate Earth’s convection currents Virtual Lab

3.) Human Impact on Climate Change: Balance human emissions and a growing population Virtual Lab

Use a climate model to investigate the effects of anthropogenic climate change on people and the environment. Why are scientists pushing to decrease global emissions? What will happen if we don’t? The fate of the world is in your hands!

Human Impact on Climate Change balance human emissions and a growing population Virtual Lab

4.) The Carbon Cycle: Reduce carbon emissions Virtual Lab

Help Farmer Greg understand the broader issues affecting corn production. Identify the different reservoirs and how they are connected, and then determine how human emissions affect the cycle by playing with the 3D model.

The Carbon Cycle Reduce carbon emissions Virtual Lab

5.) Timescales of Change: Natural climate change factors Virtual Lab

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our time. In this simulation, you will learn which astronomical, geological, and biological factors caused climate change in Earth’s past. The geological record reveals that natural climate variations occurred over short, medium, and long timescales. Learning about Earth’s past climate is crucial for understanding global warming today.

Timescales of Change Natural climate change factors Virtual Lab

6.) Principles of the Water Cycle Virtual Lab

Did you know the water you’re drinking may have once been part of a glacier in the Antarctic? In this simulation, you will learn how water moves around the Earth in a continuous cycle.

Timescales of Change Natural climate change factors Virtual Lab

7.) The Nitrogen Cycle: Balance food demands and environmental concerns Virtual Lab

Learn about the nitrogen cycle and help a local restaurant owner understand the complexities of sustainable crop production. Model nitrogen moving between stages of the cycle and then balance food production with environmental impact.

The Nitrogen Cycle Balance food demands and environmental concerns Virtual Lab

In Sum

When students understand what’s at stake and how their learning applies to their everyday life, they care considerably more. There was a study done on self-determination theory by Ryan and Deci, which states “The natural human propensities toward self-organization and an organized relation to a larger social structure are understood to require satisfaction of the three innate or fundamental psychological needs for competence, autonomy, and relatedness.”

That makes for a happy teacher because it means students are absorbing the information! Virtual labs can enforce earth science concepts in a way that makes it easier for students to understand and learn from. 

Questions for Consideration:

  • What are your students’ favorite earth science virtual labs?

  • What earth science topics are your favorite to teach?

  • What are some of your tips for making the Earth Science curriculum more relevant to students?

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