FREE Resources: 20 Sensational Science Sites

More than 30 Federal agencies formed a working group in 1997 to make hundreds of federally supported teaching and learning resources easier to find. The result of that work is the FREE web site. FREE stands for Federal Resources for Educational Excellence. The web sites listed below are excerpted with permission from the FREE web site. This month, we highlight 20 web sites for science; in future months, we will feature other subject areas.

Amazing Space

Consists of web-based educational presentations for young children about space, which were developed at the Space Telescope Science Institute. Teachers teamed up with scientists and engineers from the institute and staff members from the Office of Public Outreach to develop interactive lessons. All lessons include spectacular photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope and many high quality graphics, videos, and animation designed to enhance student understanding and interest. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Ask an Astronomer for Kids

Provides answers and photos for 200 common questions about astronomy and objects in space. Topics include planets, stars, the solar system, comets, asteroids, galaxies, and the night sky. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)


Provides interactive tutorials on biology, geology, astronomy, and atmospheric sciences. Biology topics include ecosystems, energy, producers and consumers, and the cycle of matter. Geology topics include the effects of heat and pressure on states of matter, density, convection, plate tectonics, volcanoes, the carbon cycle, earth's magnetic field, and radiation. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Is a collection of Astronomy 101 reviewed digital resources for teachers and students. Topics include asteroids and comets, astrobiology, big bang theory, black holes and pulsars, cosmology, dark energy, dark matter, galaxies, historical astronomy, Milky Way, planetary astronomy, planetary geology, stellar astronomy, telescopes and satellites, terrestrial planets, planet formation, planetary atmospheres, space exploration, stars, and the sun. (National Science Foundation)

Eyes on the Sky and Feet on the Ground

Provides hundreds of hands-on astronomy explorations for Grades 2-6. Topics include earth's rotation and orbit, earth's tilt, shadows, seasons, time zones, the moon, calendars, maps, the solar system, and tides. Activities help students understand the scientific process. Suggestions are included for discussions before and after explorations. (Harvard, supported by Smithsonian Institution)

Female Frontiers

Profiles women of NASA who achieved a variety of "women's firsts" — the first woman programmer, the first woman shuttle commander, the first woman in space, and more. Web chat archives feature conversations with more than a dozen pioneering women. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

Children's Butterfly Site

looks at the life cycle of butterflies and moths, answers frequently asked questions about butterflies and moths, lists references to butterfly and moth books and videos, and provides photos of butterflies in Asia, Western Europe, North America, and Central America. (National Biological Information Infrastructure, supported by U.S. Geological Survey)

Kid's Corner

Links to the USGS Learning Web, which is dedicated to K-12 education, exploration, and life-long learning about the earth. Learn how biology, geology, hydrology, and geography can help us understand our changing world. The site provides a list of USGS educational materials, activities, and lessons for the classroom. (U.S. Geological Survey)

Putting DNA to Work

Looks at where DNA is found, similarities in the DNA of humans and other species, and how traits are inherited from one generation to the next. Learn how DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), discovered 50 years ago, is used today to detect diseases, improve crops, and catch criminals. (National Academy of Sciences)

Botany for Kids

Offers activities for learning how leaves change color, how flowers grow, how plants fight disease and insects, why plants come in so many colors, tips for growing various plants, and facts about fungi. Learn about seeds, composting, endangered plant species, fire, lichen, and "plant hunters" — scientists who collect plant samples from around the world to trace a plant's evolution. (National Biological Information Infrastructure, supported by U.S. Geological Survey)

Hands on the Land Teaching Materials

Provides lessons for learning about the Everglades ecosystem, bat habitats, bull trout, rock classification, eagles, invasive species, forest carnivores, forest rebirth, North Cascades habitats and ancient peoples, plant morphological features, migrating birds, water quality in the wilderness, use of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to map vegetation, and more. The site includes a teachers guide to the Great Sand Dunes. (Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior)


Focuses on the classification of organisms and their evolutionary relationships. It includes information about Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the father of modern plant and animal classification, and links to resources for learning about taxonomies, biological nomenclature, careers in systematic biology, and more. Resources are organized by the five kingdoms: viruses, bacteria, protists, fungi, plants, and animals. (National Biological Information Infrastructure, supported by U.S. Geological Survey)


Is a place where teachers can find marine science education resources that are screened by science educators and research scientists. The site features "Scuttlebutt", a discussion list, and tells about the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), a fast-paced academic competition for high school students. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

NASA Oceanography

Provides online field trips, information about ocean phenomena (such as phytoplankton, carbon, and reefs), remote sensing tools for monitoring ocean changes, and more. This website is based on NASA research and satellite missions focused on global ocean science. (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)

International Year of the Ocean — Kid's & Teacher's Resources

Offers information about oceanography, meteorology, resource conservation, and marine biology. Links are provided to information about coral reefs, threatened and endangered species, and educational programs such as GLOBE, where students and teachers collect data that is used by scientists and researchers, and Adopt A Buoy, where National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration measurement equipment can be brought into the classroom. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

Ocean Explorer

Provides 165 lesson plans developed to bring entire classrooms "on board" for exploration and discovery. Topics include deep-sea hydrothermal vents and their spectacular animal communities, benthic creatures of the Northern Gulf of Mexico (one of Earth's most geologically complex regions), seafloor methane, unexplored deep reef habitats off the Carolinas, the Titanic, and the mystery of the Steamship Portland (lost in a 1898 storm off New England). (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)


Helps students answer questions about dinosaurs: What makes a dinosaur "a dinosaur"? Where did they live? What caused their mass extinction? Students can participate in a virtual dinosaur discovery, follow milestones in dinosaur evolution, and see behind-the-scenes slideshows of the lab environment where vertebrate specimens are prepared for exhibits and research. (National Museum of Natural History, supported by Smithsonian Institution)

The Dinosaur Homepage

Displays featured bones from the Museum's large collection. Each photograph may be enlarged and comes with a text. The bones can be viewed by dinosaur type and by time period. The site also offers a geologic timeline, an anatomy lesson, and a discussion of misconceptions about dinosaurs (National Museum of Natural History, supported by Smithsonian Institution)

Global Warming Facts and Our Future

Explores the latest scientific information from the National Academy of Sciences. Is our climate warming? Are humans causing it? What might be the effects? What can be done? Learn about the greenhouse effect, the carbon cycle, past changes in our climate, and predicted changes and how they could affect sea levels, agriculture, and ecosystems. See options for reducing CO2 emissions. (National Academy of Sciences)

Digital Library for Earth System Education

Is a geoscience community resource that supports teaching and learning about the Earth system. Find thousands of reviewed resources on topics that include atmospheric science, biology, chemistry, climatology, cryology, ecology, environmental science, forestry, geography, geology, mineralogy and petrology, hydrology, mathematics, natural hazards, ocean sciences, physics, soil science, and space science. (National Science Foundation)