As the popularity of student-led learning grows, so does the importance of providing our learners with safe and accurate research sources. While we want to encourage school students to explore their interests, we have to remember that the internet offers a vast supply of information, some of which is unregulated.
We want to help you guide your students to accurate and trusted resources, which is why we've done the hard work for you and found 17 of the best websites for student research.
Sites For Younger Students (K-5th Grade)
1. National Geographic Kids
National Geographic Kids features content that is mostly focused on animals and the natural world but also has information on social studies topics too. The site offers educational games, videos, and other activities. Students can also find out 'Weird But True' facts and tour countries around the world.
Learn more: National Geographic Kids
2. DK Find Out!
DK Find Out! is a fun site covering many topics, such as science and math, along with content that is less commonly covered such as transportation, language arts, and computer coding. The site is easy to navigate and includes videos, quizzes, and fun facts.
Learn more: DK Find Out!
Epic! is a digital library and e-reader website and app with a collection of over 40,000 children's books. Students can search for texts and also be assigned texts to read by their teacher. Free accounts are available to use during the school day.
There is also a built-in dictionary feature and a large number of 'read to me' texts, which are excellent for students who may not be able to read independently yet.
Epic! also includes an educational video library, magazines, and options to track student activity. Some texts can also be downloaded for offline use if access to an internet connection is an issue.
Learn more: Epic!
Ducksters is quite a text-heavy site, so best for use with older students who have already developed independent reading and note-taking skills. It offers a range of social studies and scientific content, but it is an especially great resource for researching the US and world history. Along with written content, the site also has a collection of games for students to play.
Learn more: Ducksters
5. BrainPOP Jr.
BrainPOP Jr has a huge archive of videos on a broad range of topics. Each video is around 5 minutes long and kids will be tickled by the two main characters, Annie and Moby. This is a great resource to use if you've taught your students how to take notes from watching videos, although the transcripts for each video can also be accessed. The website also includes quizzes and activities for students to complete after watching the videos.
Learn more: BrainPOP Jr.
6. Kids Discover
Kids Discover is a vast, award-winning library of non-fiction content for students, featuring interesting articles and videos that will have them hooked! Students will need an account but there is some free content available.
Learn more: Kids Discover
Head to the Wonderopolis website and explore the world of wonders! The content on this site covers a wide range of educational topics. Articles have embedded photos and videos for easy access, and the search tool will help students find the information they need.
Learn more: Wonderopolis
8. Fact Monster
9. TIME for Kids
TIME for Kids aims to nurture today's learners and tomorrow's leaders with original news articles and interviews. Help your students grow the critical-thinking skills required to become active global citizens. The site is geared towards helping students understand the news and world around them.
Learn more: TIME for Kids
Sites for Older Students (6th Grade -12th Grade)
The older sibling of BrainPOP Jr, BrainPOP is aimed at older students and features videos based on a higher level curriculum. Tim takes over from Annie to interact with Moby, and the videos cover more information at a greater depth while at a faster pace.
Learn more: BrainPOP
Containing a vast range of educational content, your students are sure to find the resources they need at Newslea. Material is aligned to academic standards and also includes wellness activities. You will need to subscribe to this site in order to access its content, but certain types of funding are available.
Learn more: News ELA
12. New York Times
The New York Times has the latest, up-to-the-minute articles informing your students of current events happening around the world. Be mindful that this is a news site aimed at adults, and so you should think carefully about the age and maturity of your students before directing them to this site. The site has a vast collection of online articles that students may find useful in their research.
Learn more: New York Times
13. National Public Radio (NPR)
Again, another NPR is another site of excellent journalistic material that is geared towards an adult audience. A great place to direct students if they are looking for reputable coverage of current events.
Learn more: National Public Radio (NPR)
14. National Museum of American History
The National Museum of American History website is a useful resource for exploring history and viewing artifacts. The website also provides suggestions to other Smithsonian pages that might be of use to your students' topics of research.
Learn more: National Museum of American History
15. How Stuff Works
'How Stuff Works' is an interesting collection of videos and articles which explain, well, how things work! Great for any curious student who wants to dig a little deeper into the science behind something.
Learn more: How Stuff Works
Did you know that the well-known 'History Channel' has a site where you can read articles about important historical events? Events are categorized in a variety of ways, making it easy for students to find what they are looking for.
Learn more: History
17. Google Scholar
Now, Google Scholar is not a website where students can view information. Think of it more as a tool created to help readers find the literature of a scholarly nature on the internet. From the search bar, students are able to locate peer-reviewed papers, books, theses, abstracts, and journal articles from a range of academic publishers. It is a great tool for helping your students find and explore educational resources.
Learn more: Google Scholar
It's worth noting that while these sites are designed for children and teenagers, advertisements may still pop up or students may be tempted to stray to different sites. We recommend that you always check out a site yourself before recommending it to your students. It might be wise to consider teaching an online safety lesson before starting any kind of online research project with your students.
You could reach out to your technology department for help with this. There are also some great ideas for lessons on sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers.
Don't discount your school library for excellent resources and access to texts! Connect with your school librarian and provide them with a list of research topics. They are usually more than happy to dig out some age-appropriate texts and check them out for you to use in your classroom.
However, we all know that one student with a super-specific and obscure interest, and that's when the internet can be an invaluable tool! Online resources are also excellent for when students don't have access to hard copy books, such as during remote learning.
Librarians can also tell you about any sites or databases your school subscribes to and how to navigate online texts you may have access to.
Taking Notes and Plagiarism
Along with teaching students about internet safety, it's also imperative to teach them how to take notes properly and avoid copying straight from the text.
Again, there are some great lessons and videos out there on how to take notes and write research in our own words. Students will definitely need some time and practice with it, but it's a useful topic on which to have a class discussion before they get started.