Educational Games from the National Library of Medicine by Alicia Lillich

It is no secret that children love to play games. Games are fun and challenging and if they can incorporate educational concepts all the better! A 2016 report from Project Tomorrow, “From Print to Pixel,” examines trends in digital education. The report indicates an increase in the use of gaming, animations, and other digital content in K-12 education. Some of the findings related to gaming include:

  • The use of gaming by teachers has doubled – from 23% in 2010 to 48% in 2015.
  • 57% of school principals admit that lack of training for teachers is a top barrier to expanding digital learning.
  • Teachers in elementary grades are more likely to use game-based learning.
  • Over 60% of middle school students play games for self-directed learning outside the classroom.

If you are a school media specialist or children’s librarian, you may be looking for health and science games or animations that you can recommend to teachers and students. Well the National Library of Medicine (NLM) does have apps for that (and websites too)! With input from teachers and students, NLM has created several games and interactive sites to teach about chemistry, biology, and environmental health.

Base Chase: In this game, players help DeeNA jump on fast moving platforms to grab bases of DNA to build DNA strands for different animals. Base Chase can be incorporated into biology curriculum and is geared towards high school students. You can download the app for free from iTunes. A video tutorial is included.

Bohr Thru: In the style of the popular Candy Crush game, Bohr Thru players can collect protons, neutrons, and electrons to create the first 18 elements of the periodic table. This is a fun way to increase knowledge of chemical elements and structures. Bohr Thru can be included as part of chemistry curriculum and is geared towards high school students. You can download the app for free from iTunes.

Run4Green: In this Mario-style game, players can collect coins and complete environmentally friendly tasks while learning about important environmental health issues such as, renewable energy, green products, and greenhouse gas reduction. Run4Green is geared towards students in 5-8 grades. You can download the app for free from iTunes.

TOXInvaders: In this fast-paced game, players use a launcher to destroy toxic chemicals falling from the sky. Capturing “good chemicals” earns protective shield points. To move on the next level, players must take a brief quiz about the featured chemicals. TOXInvaders can be implemented into chemistry or environmental health curriculum, and is geared towards middle school students. You can download the app for free from iTunes. A tutorial is included.

ToxMystery: In this interactive learning site, players help Toxie the Cat find chemical hazards hidden throughout the house. Toxie will do a little dance whenever all the hazards are located, and along the way players learn how different substances in the environment affect human and pet health. There are also resource pages for teachers and parents. This site is available in both English and Spanish, and is geared towards ages 7-11 years old. It is freely available online at

Looking to pair these games with other NLM resources?

  • GeneEd: A genetics resource for students and teachers in grades 9-12. Includes lesson plans, animations, virtual and hands-on lab experiments, links to articles, and information on genetics careers.
  • Environmental Health Student Portal: A resource on environmental health for middle school students and teachers. Includes lesson plans, videos, animations, articles, games, and experiments. The information is focused on air pollution, chemicals, climate change, and water pollution.
  • ToxTown: Provides information on toxic chemicals in everyday locations, and how the environment impacts human health. This interactive site focuses on six specific environments: city, farm, town, US Border Regions, port, and US Southwest. Includes a resource page for teachers. Available in English and Spanish. For all ages.



Project Tomorrow. (2016). From Print to Pixel: The Role of Videos, Games, Animations and Simulations within K-12 education. Retrieved from


Alicia Lillich is the Kansas Outreach and Technology Coordinator for the National Network of Libraries of Medicine, MidContinental Region. She is based at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Alicia is always happy to share more information about NLM’s K-12 health and science resources. You can reach her at

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