INTERNET @ SCHOOLS
Free and Fee-Based Online Science
Resources for the K-12 Community
J. Lackie and Robert J. Congleton
Searching the Web may seem an easy task. Just type in
your terms and look at all the resultsuntil, of
course, you are engulfed in your hits, drowning in the
inevitable consequences of a bad keyword search. A more
efficient, viable alternative is to search combinations
of superb free Web directories/portals and free/fee-based
vendor resources, with an emphasis on quality over quantity.
This article will assist in your important, continuing
quest to develop stimulating additions to traditional
K-12+ science curricula.
Numerous, free quality Web sites exist covering many
K-12 subject areas and offering suggestions for teaching
and learning. One subject area well covered on the free
Web is science, with many sites offering information
and resources for general as well as specific branches
of science. Students and teachers could use general-purpose
Web search engines, such as Google, MSN, or Yahoo! Search,
to find some of these free quality science sitesif
they are willing to wade through the thousands of hits
that result from a keyword search. But, honestly, no
one really has the time or patience to do so.
GUIDE FOR EVALUATING WEB SITES
The essential features for evaluating a Web
site can be summarized by determining the answers
to six questions. The answers should be readily
available on the site.
1. Who is responsible for the material published
on the site?
2. What is the scope of the site's material?
3. What are the sources of the site's material?
4. Does the site give copyright information
for the material?
5. How easy is it to search and retrieve the
6. How old is the information on the Web site?
Applying these criteria to a Web site containing
instructional aids and curriculum resource materials
on the various areas of K-12 science enables a
student, teacher, or parent to judge whether or
not to use the material offered by a particular
Students looking through the search results would have
difficulty recognizing a good site from a bad or mediocre
one. And general search engines do not evaluate or annotate
their content. (For those who do choose to search via
a general search engine, we've constructed a simple
evaluation guide that will help them decide on the worthiness
of a site. See the "Guide for Evaluating Web Sites"
sidebar at right.
Of course, there are other efficient, effective methods
available for finding quality information on the Web.
We believe using general and specialty directories and
portal sites can be a viable alternative to search engines.
If you have a broad topic; want access to selected,
evaluated, and annotated collections; and prefer quality
over quantity, then begin your search with one of our
favorite general and specialty science directories,
portals, and Web sites that we review below. We believe
you will find them useful in your quest for free, quality
science information on the Web.
General and Specialty Science Directories,
Portals, and Sites
BUBL Information Service
Geared for high school and above, BUBL provides access
to many resources, including full-text articles and
mailing lists. The BUBL Link category contains Subject
Menus where you can choose "Science" and find topic
links under Mathematics, Astronomy, Physics, Chemistry,
Earth Sciences, Life Sciences, Plants, and Animals.
Educator's Reference Desk
This site contains extensive materials collected on
the award-winning AskERIC site during the past decade.
It provides free access to ERICthe world's largest
database of information on education research and practiceincluding
free, full-text expert digest reports. Excellent for
every K-12 subject, we recommend the "Teaching" link,
and "Science" and "Health" subcategories under the "Subject"
link, which provide evaluated, annotated links to lesson
plans, archived responses, Web sites, online communities,
and organizations concerning science and health.
ENC Online: Science Topics
The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for Mathematics
and Science Education has collected effective curriculum
resource sites and created high-quality professional
development materials to improve K-12 math and science
teaching and learning. This is great for students, parents,
and educators. Check out the "Student/
Classroom" and "Reference Sources" sections, too.
Eric Weisstein's World of Science
This superb public service science education site
contains free full-text "encyclopedias of astronomy,
scientific biography, chemistry, and physics ... assembled
over more than a decade by Internet encyclopedist Eric
W. Weisstein with assistance from the Internet community."
A free interactive site from the San Francisco Exploratorium
Museum of Art, Science, & Human Perception, it focuses
on "investigating the science behind ordinary subjects
and experiences of people's lives ... and also looks
at historical/social issues surrounding them, providing
a context for scientific exploration."
FirstGov for Kids: Science
This site provides subject links to federal kids'
sites along with excellent kids' sites from other organizations.
Check out the "Homework," "Health," "Plants/Animals,"
and "Space" sections of the site, too.
Internet Public Library
Known for its interactive reference desk, IPL also
has "Computers," "Health," and "Science & Tech"
subject collections. In addition, kids can explore KidSpace
which provides "Science & Math" and "Health &
Nutrition" subject collections, and a "Science Fair"
special feature. Teens can check out TeenSpace [http://ipl.si.umich.edu/div/teen/browse/gh5000/],
which provides "Health" and "Homework Help: Science"
sections and more.
For high school and above, this provides access to
MEDLINE, including links to full-text articles and related
resources. Explore PubMed Central, an e-archive of free,
full-text articles from life sciences journals, as well
as Bookshelf, "a growing collection of [full-text] biomedical
books that can be searched directly."
For high school and above, this is a "gateway to the
best scientific research news sources," providing selective
access to area-specific research news in the Biosciences,
Health Sciences, Physics/Chemistry, Earth & Space,
and Engineering fields, as well as links to "locate
prime research tools and resources."
Science Teacher's Resource
This award-winning Web site is for grade 9-12 science
teachers to share ideas in the areas of biology, chemistry,
physics, and life sciences, including advanced placement.
Interactive Web Sites Covering Specific
Branches of Science
Automotive Learning On-line
An interactive and educational view of the automobile,
this site contains graphics and illustrations with animations
and descriptive links. It is searchable via a keyword
search feature, image, animation, and text.
This American Chemical Society site provides information
for professionals, educators, and students at all levels
with access to publications, chemistry news, jobs, lesson
plans, a "Molecule of the Week" feature, and an interactive
periodic table. Check out the "Educators & Students"
tab, with its K-12 sections, including "WonderNet" for
Constellations and Their Stars
This site explains what constellations are, lists
stars and constellations alphabetically, by month, and
by catalog number. It also includes interactive star
charts, a bibliography of star myths from various cultures,
and a brief explanation of the myths behind the names
"The Consumer Health Information Task Force of the
UMDNJ Campus Libraries developed this site to meet healthcare
information needs of consumers." The "Just for Kids"
and "Reference Desk" sections are relevant and helpful.
Howard Hughes Medical Institute:
This international award-winning site allows you to
be the scientist, providing fully interactive biomedical
laboratory simulations, including bacterial identification,
cardiology, and neurophysiology labs.
Human Genome Project
This is an award-winning U.S. Department of Energy
site that disseminates information about worldwide Human
Genome Projects, offering "a wealth of general research
information on genetics and bioethics." It includes
a "Genetics 101" introduction, a glossary of terms/acronyms,
and an "Ethical, Legal, Social Issues" section linking
to journal articles on court actions.
This online encyclopedia provides authoritative conservation
information on 55,000+ plants, animals, and ecological
communities" in the U.S. and Canada, with in-depth coverage
for rare and endangered species.
Internet Plasma Physics Education
This site's goal is to get middle and high school
students excited about science using interactive pages
on matter, fusion, electricity, magnetism, and energy.
Questions can also be e-mailed to Ask a Physicist.
Neuroscience for Kids
An interactive site dedicated to improving knowledge
of the nervous system, it provides interesting tutorials
on the brain and the central nervous system along with
experiments and activities for all students.
Virtual Courseware for Earth and Environmental
This California State University site contains
Web-based labs that can enhance learning and teaching
of environmental sciences in high school and college.
The Virtual Earthquake, River, Dating (geologic time),
and Global Warming labs are interactive so "students
learn by 'doing' and not just clicking and viewing."
Much of the information in the above section came
from our nationally recognized Sci-Math World site
More interactive Web sites on anatomy/biology, animals/insects,
nutrition, environment, genetics, marine sciences, and
physical sciences can be found at our web site.
Still, although this and many other free, quality
Web sites can provide a great deal of information on
teaching, learning, and researching science, many other
important resources, such as professional magazines
and scholarly journals on science and teaching, are
not freely available on the Web. These resources can
be accessed only through commercial vendors' fee-based
subscription databases. Sometimes, however, if you review
and explore these vendor sites, you can also find some
free full-text or abstract databases there.
Commercial Database Vendors
offers a large number of fee-based subscription databases
containing science resources geared for grades K-12,
including the following:
Health Source: Consumer Edition,
for grades 9-12, provides access to full-text, consumer
health periodicals, reference books, and fact sheets.
Encyclopedia of Animals,
for elementary schools, provides articles about mammals,
birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, dinosaurs, and
other prehistoric animals.
The Marshall Cavendish Science
Reference Center contains distinct encyclopedias
on earth/physical sciences, environment, life sciences,
technology/applied sciences, and scientific biographies.
The Marshall Cavendish Wildlife
Reference Center provides access to three distinct
encyclopedias on dinosaurs, mammals, and endangered
General Science Collection
contains full text for general, popular science publications.
Auto Repair Reference Center
provides general and repair information on most major
manufacturers of domestic and imported vehicles back
EBSCO also offers packages containing assorted combinations
of science and nonscience databases for elementary through
high school levels, such as Primary Online Package,
Middle Online Package, and MAS Ultra (School
Edition). EBSCO also offers a Professional Development
Collection that might be of interest to science
teachers since it accesses the full-text versions of
high-quality education journals.
In addition, EBSCO offers two free abstract databases
for teachers and librarians: Library Reference Center
offers indexes and abstracts from library titles, and
Teacher Reference Center offers indexes and abstracts
of the most popular teacher and administrator trade
journals, including Childhood Education, High
School Journal, Journal of Educational Research,
Physics Teacher, Science Education, Science
Teacher, and Science Teachers Journal.
Elsevier offers nine fee-based subscription databases
geared toward college and university students and researchers.
Of these databases, EMBASE [http://www.embase.com]
and ScienceDirect [http://www.sciencedirect.com]
are useful for upper-level high school students. EMBASE
provides access to biomedical and pharmacological information,
while ScienceDirect provides peer-reviewed academic
journals covering all branches of science.
Elsevier also offers Scirus [http://www.scirus.com],
a free Web search engine for scientists, researchers,
and students. Search results are drawn from science-related
pages, including university sites, author home pages,
company home pages, government sites, and databases
such as ScienceDirect, MEDLINE, and BioMed
Central. A more in-depth review of Scirus and other
science Web tools for higher-level high school and above
can be found in the Nov./Dec. 2003 ONLINE magazine
sci-math article [http://www.infotoday.com/online/nov03/index.shtml].
Many subsidiaries of the Thomson Corporation offer
fee-based subscription science databases. One subsidiary,
provides BasicBIOSIS for students new to research
in science, providing citations from science and health
publications, as well as general newspapers and newsmagazines.
BIOSIS also offers BiologyBrowser [http://www.biologybrowser.org],
a free Web site service that enables you to access unique
high-quality online resources in the life sciences,
featuring an "Index to Organism Names" and a "Guide
to the Animal Kingdom for Students and Educators."
Another subsidiary, Thomson Gale [http://www.gale.com],
provides Science Resource Center, a new,
curriculum-oriented science database for high school
and above with content that's directly correlated to
national and state science curriculum standards. It
accesses reference resources, primary documents, full-text
journals, multimedia, and links to science Web sites.
Science Resource Center leverages the considerable Thomson
Gale resources, including Gale Encyclopedia of Science,
Macmillan Science Library, and UXL Encyclopedia
of Science, along with 40 additional proprietary
The West Group subsidiary of Thomson offers Findlaw
the most popular legal Web site and it's free! Findlaw
is great for finding legal information, including case
history, statutes, and codes on healthcare, and medical
malpractice. In addition, Findlaw can easily lead you
to superb free databases for various subject areas,
including health and education. Just click on the "Browse
by Practice Area" under the "For Legal Professionals"
section on the first page and choose the "Health Law,"
"Education Law," or other practice/subject area of interest.
Then, find the "Databases" link under the "Web Guide"
section, and you will see an alphabetical, annotated
listing of quality databases and statistical sites on
produces or distributes numerous fee-based subscription
databases. The Wilson General Science Abstracts
database, of interest to teachers and students, is found
at this main site. However, it is under ProQuest
where the K-12 community will find more relevant products
and resources. While several general databases, such
as eLibrary and SIRS Discoverer, provide
science sections, the ProQuest AP Science database,
located under the Special Collections heading, specifically
focuses on science and health study supporting college-prep
and advanced placement coursework for high school. In
addition, under the Teacher & Curriculum Resources
heading, ProQuest K12 offers the Professional Education
Library database for professional development, research,
and continuing education on science education and other
Note that ProQuest recently also announced "dynamic
standards-based searching" in its K-12 databases, allowing
educators to locate resources in eLibrary, eLibrary
Curriculum Edition, and the SIRS suite of
databases by content standard and benchmark.
Although ProQuest provides no free databases, you
can find many excellent, free, full-text hands-on resources
(Excel, HTML, PDF, and Word formats) under the "Curriculum
Support," "Homework Help," and "Funding Guides" links
on the entry ProQuest K-12 page. K-12 students, teachers,
and librarians will like the "Scientific-Based Research,"
"Prevent Plagiarism," "Internet Resources for Students,"
and "Lesson Plans & Teacher Toolbox Links" resources,
We have mentioned only a few of the quality free and
fee-based Web resources that exist. More are out there
on the Web. Other resources you might consider exploring
for curriculum resource materials will be discussed
in the Internet@Schools West 2004 Session
S101: "Finding Free Education Resources on the Web for
Teachers and Librarians." The PowerPoint & online
article will be available on the Internet Librarian
2004 Collected Presentation site in late November
We would recommend reading the annotations on and exploring
the Gateway to Educational Materials, BlueWeb'n,
Kathy Schrock, and EdSelect portals,
among others there, to search for quality science sites.
For instance, when reviewing EdSelect [http://edselect.com/]
you will find that the entire comprehensive Ontario,
Canada "Science and Technology," "Earth and Space Systems,"
and "Health and Physical Fitness" Curriculum Areas for
Grades 1-8 are freely availablean invaluable curriculum
resource for elementary and middle school science teachers.
Again, we hope that you find this article to be useful
for effectively and efficiently locating pertinent,
quality online free and fee-based science resources
for your K-12 community. Unless you are an experienced
searcher, we suggest exploring the resources mentioned
within this article, rather than merely wading through
general-purpose search engine's results.
Lackie, Robert J. 2003. "Science and Math Web Resources
for the Higher Education Community." ONLINE: The
Leading Magazine for Information Professionals 27.6
(Nov./Dec. 2003): 35-39.
Lackie, Robert J. 2004. "Sci-Math World."
Rider University. Retrieved 4 August 2004 [http://library.rider.edu/scholarly/rlackie/sci/].
Lackie (MLIS, University of South Carolina, and
M.A. in curriculum, instruction, and supervision, Rider
University) is associate professor-librarian, Franklin
F. Moore Library, Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ,
and library liaison to the Biology, Chemistry/Physics,
Mathematics, and Education departments. He can be reached
Robert J. Congleton (MLIS, Rutgers University,
and M.A. in history, University of Connecticut) is assistant
professor II-librarian and archivist, Franklin F. Moore
Library, Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ, and library
liaison to the History, Political Science, and Philosophy
departments. His e-mail address is email@example.com.