What is Nova Labs PBS and How Does It Work? Best Tips and Tricks

Nova Labs PBS
(Image credit: PBS)

Nova Labs PBS is an online platform that is crammed full of educational resources to teach students about a range of STEM subjects. Thanks to the use of real-world data, this gamifies reality to make learning engaging. 

To be clear, this is the Nova Labs from PBS, which is offered as a free resource for teachers and students age 6 and up. Comprising several different labs, this offers games in each to teach a broad range of subjects, with a science focus.

From learning about space to the inner workings of RNA, there are large swathes of information in each section that allow students to dive deep, with video and written guidance, as well as questions to keep them engaged throughout.

Useful for in class study as well as at home working, could Nova Labs PBS be right for your classroom?

What is Nova Labs PBS?

Nova Labs PBS is an online-based gamified resource center that teaches STEM and science-based subjects to kids using engaging video, questions, and answers, plus interactive content.

Nova Labs PBS

(Image credit: PBS)

Nova Labs PBS is highly interactive with short video guidance followed by written facts and interactive models that allow students to play with numbers in a real-world example. That makes this great for students who might otherwise not stay as well engaged with simple written and image-based teaching.

Accessible via a web browser, this is highly compatible across lots of devices, but is best in Chrome or Firefox browsers. Usefully, it's possible to adjust quality to suit the machine and bandwidth that you have available in your school.

How does Nova Labs PBS work?

Nova Labs PBS opens with a selection of labs to pick from which include Financial, Exoplanet, Polar, Evolution, Cybersecurity, RNA, Cloud, Energy, and Sun. Head into one to be taken to a separate lander page dedicated to that lab, offering more details on what can be expected from the learning.

Nova Labs PBS

(Image credit: PBS)

Once you're in the area of choice, such as Exoplanet pictured above, you're given a short video intro with real scientists talking about the area covered. An animated video then takes you to that world to explore. You then have a substation to move forward, allowing students to pick how and when they progress.

While everything is immediately available for free, as a guest, you will need to sign in using an account, if you want to save progress. This seems pretty necessary as there is a lot of information to work through that could be spread across multiple lessons with ease. This also allows students to continue where they left off, at home, for personal progress at a rate that is befitting that student.

What are the best Nova Labs PBS features?

Nova Labs PBS is super simple to use with large buttons and plenty of clear video and written guidance, making it easy to navigate for even younger students.

Nova Labs PBS

(Image credit: PBS)

The use of game-like activities means students can perform experiments, playing with the data, to see how it causes effects. This allows them not only to learn how the science works but how it can vary and cause effects from their control of tools. Empowering and educating in equal measures.

If logged in, the student's answers to questions are recorded so that you can see how they are progressing or -- potentially more usefully -- to see where they are struggling. This also means it's possible to assign sections to be completed at home so you can go over it in class in flipped classroom style.

The online lab report gives students the opportunity to make notes of their progress and learning as well as to review quiz responses so far. 

How much does Nova Labs PBS cost?

Nova Labs PBS is free to use and has no adverts or tracking on the website. Since it is web-based and allows you to vary quality, it should work on most devices as well as on most internet connections.

You will need to sign-in, using a Google account or a PBS account, if you want to take advantage of tracking, pausing, and all the feedback features that can be useful for teachers. 

Nova Labs PBS best tips and tricks

Group up
Work in groups or pairs to help everyone, at varying levels, collaborate and experiment from a perspective of understanding how to learn as a team.

Print out
Use printed lab reports to take the learning back into the classroom and see how students are progressing.

Perhaps use a teacher check-in before progressing between stages to make sure all students are understanding as they're advancing through the levels.

Luke Edwards is a freelance writer and editor with more than two decades of experience covering tech, science, and health. He writes for many publications covering health tech, software and apps, digital teaching tools, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and much more.