Using Inquiry Based Simulations in the Honors Science Laboratory


  • Anne D Crowell George Mason University
  • Harold Geller George Mason University



PHET, simulations, physics, chemistry, inquiry-based learning, liberal arts, creative problem solving, honors


The project known as PhET, originally stood for Physics Education Technology, but was quickly expanded into the other natural sciences.à It is a project which, with a grant from the NSF and other sponsors, now provides free inquiry- based simulations in the natural sciences and mathematics.à The project was founded by Nobel Prize winner Carl Wieman. The simulations are highly interactive, easy to use, and based on the latest educational research. The GMU Honors College teaches several science courses geared to high achieving liberal arts students.à The courses cover a wide range of topics that include astrobiology, energy/environmental issues, and scientific thought and processes. Despite their high ability and motivation, these students often report a reluctance to engage in scientific inquiry. àPhET simulations were used as laboratory experiments to teach basic concepts in physics and chemistry. Students display high engagement and interest utilizing PhET simulations. Students also were able to demonstrate creativity in problem solving, and a reduced fear of making mistakes. àThe PhET computer simulations allowed students to quickly identify cause and effect relationships between simulation inputs and outputs.

Author Biographies

Anne D Crowell, George Mason University

Instructor, GMU Honors College and Department of Physics.

GMU PhD student in Higher Education, Fall 2016

Harold Geller, George Mason University

Term Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy
Director, College of Science Observatory






4:15pm-5:30pm POSTER SESSION (Group A- 4:15-4:45pm)