The LabXchange Collaborator Spotlight logo (three people holding hands in a circle) sits in a small blue hexagon in the lower right, with the text "Biology Simulations" and their logo, a red face, placed towards the center of the image.

Collaborator Spotlight: Simplifying Science with Biology Simulations

As many science teachers can attest to, it's not always easy to teach a complex concept in a way that makes sense to all students. That's where simulations can lend a hand, especially those that allow students to explore and have fun. We spoke to Jolene Pappas, biology teacher and creator of Biology Simulations, to learn what inspired her to start creating science simulations for the classroom.

What's one thing LabXchange users should know about your organization?

Biology Simulations aims to help students learn biological concepts as well as practice data analysis and experimental design. The simulations all produce quantitative data and have random components, so there is variation in results each time the simulation is run.

Biology Simulations is NOT trying to replace hands-on labs. Rather, many of the simulations focus on concepts that are difficult to test in a school lab setting due to complexity, time, or resource constraints. Other content is intended to supplement hands-on experiences or act as a study tool.

What's one fun fact about your organization?

Biology Simulations exists because Adobe shut down Flash. A simulation I had used for years, "Sex and the Single Guppy," was no longer available after it was announced in 2017 that Flash would not be supported into the future. I couldn't find exactly what I wanted in a replacement, especially without some sort of subscription, so I wondered if I could make my own. I learned a little HTML and JavaScript and started working on a few designs. Once I had some functional simulations and found that they worked for my classroom, I started sharing the website. Then, between COVID-19 and the final end for Flash in January 2021, demand for new simulations increased, and Biology Simulations content started being used all over the world.

A woman, Jolene Pappas, in sunglasses and a t-shirt that reads "Biology Simulations" stands at the edge of the Grand Canyon.
Jolene Pappas, creator of Biology Simulations, stands at the edge of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, USA.

What is your organization's vision for science education?

A critical component of science education is developing an understanding that science is a process, not simply a collection of facts. An appreciation for how scientific knowledge is developed and evaluated is an important aspect of everyone’s education, not just those who go on to science-driven careers. With Biology Simulations, I try to balance materials and tools that help students learn specific biology content knowledge with general science skills.

Who are your scientific inspirations?

It’s tempting to pick a “big name” here, but over time, I’ve become more inspired by the average modern scientist. They’re in labs, in hospitals, out in the field, asking big and little questions about how things work. Also, most scientists are working collaboratively, so any given discovery involves quite a bit of teamwork.

What is the first science experiment you remember performing?

I remember various science activities (dissections, growing plants, etc.), but I can’t really remember the first true experiment. I do remember doing experiments for my AP Biology class in high school, and those experiences played a pivotal role in my decision to go on to study biology in college.

Tell us what motivates you to continue creating/communicating your amazing content!

My main motivation is my students! I primarily design content with my own classroom and lesson planning in mind. I am also motivated by all the other biology teachers and students who are using the site. Knowing that people are using the content inspires me to keep working on new content and improving what’s already there.

What's your favorite science joke/pun?

If you’re not part of the solution, you’re a precipitate.

Explore more content from Biology Simulations on their collaborator page!

Written by
Chris Burnett
Digital Content Specialist

Read more