Making Science Stations Work for You

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Hey y'all! Have you taken the plunge and tried science stations yet? If you have, excellent! If you haven't, or you want to but aren't sure how to manage it, here's a few ideas on how it could work for you, but first, let's cover the basics.

What:

Science stations are a set of 6 stations the kids go to throughout the week. We typically have a whole group lesson on Monday, do 2 rotations a day on Tuesday through Thursday, and have a culminating activity on Friday. The whole time during rotations, I am walking around monitoring students, providing feedback, and making sure they are understanding the big ideas in each station. 

Why:

Why should you try science stations? In my classroom, science stations are the most organized and engaging part of our whole day. The kids are excited, they know the routine without any prompts from me, they are independent in their learning, and I rarely have a student off task. This is the time of day when I hear, "This is the best day ever!" most frequently. The kids are LEARNING and they see it as play. It's a win-win.

To get our stations organized, I label each box with a lab number. Students are assigned a group and typically rotate through each center together, but not always as I'll show you below. These are shoebox sized plastic bins I picked up from Target, but you can find them anywhere.

Who:

Keep your groups flexible. I assign my students groups based on how they interact with each other. I may pair a couple of struggling readers together if I know they can persevere and sound things out together. I may pair a high kid and a low kid together if I know they can work well together. You know your kiddos. Set them up in groups that get along well together but won't get each other off task.

Don't be afraid to mix things up either. If I see they're getting a little too comfortable together, I'll reassign groups. If they're off the charts awesome, I'll let them pick their partners for the week. You be the judge on what your students can handle.


How:

The "how" is flexible. More often than not, we do centers the way they are described above. But not all weeks are that organized. Sometimes we have an early release that cuts into our science time. Sometimes, we have special event that messes with our schedule. Whatever the reason, there are other ways to make it work.

Option 1: You have a four day week, so you can do the Monday experiment on the first day of the week, then do 3 stations a day on the next two days, and the big experiment on the last day of the week.

Option 2: Do the Monday experiment on your first full science time of the week. Set up the centers on a day where you have a full hour and half or more and rotate through all 6. Then, do the Friday experiment on the next full science day. This requires some stamina from your littles. I wouldn't do this setup at the very beginning of the year.

Option 3: Do the Monday experiment on a full science day. Setup all the centers on a day when you have a solid hour and half, but let them choose which ones to go to, how long to stay, and where to go next. Do the Friday experiment at the end of the week.

**I use this option with seasonal, task-oriented units like Valentine's or St. Patrick's Day. I do not use this setup with content heavy units because I want to make sure they get to every. single. station.


Option 4: If you're pressed for time or your district has a specific curriculum you HAVE to use during science time, integrate the centers into reading or math block. The book lab can easily become a literacy center during reading and measurement labs can easily fit into your math block.

I visited a school where all of the curriculum is integrated into the same blocks of time. Students had 3-4 hours a day in total to visit all of their reading, math, and various other centers, and could go to whichever center they wanted during those time blocks. (The teacher taught reading and math in small groups during that time.) If you have a schedule like this, you could setup one or two stations a day for students to explore.

Option 5: Do one activity a day whole group. This isn't the same as stations, obviously, but if you have a class that just can't handle it then this might be your best bet for setting expectations.

I personally don't like doing it this way. Even my toughest classes were the best behaved during science stations, so I am a HUGE advocate for rotations. However, you have to do what's best for your students and their learning styles.

Putting it all Together:

I hope I answered a few questions for you. I've heard many teachers say they love reading and math centers but are hesitant to try science stations because they've never taught it that way. If you're at that point right now, rest assured that it can be done and your students will love you for it. Teaching science this way has been SO MUCH FUN for both my students and me. I no longer have wiggly ones interrupting the whole group lesson because they can't sit still after lunch. The fast pace of the centers keeps them engaged and focused.

To grab a copy of the center organization signs, click here (it's free!). And stay tuned for more science units coming soon. 

Stay sweet,

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