Wondering how to teach with science stations? Traveling from center to center, kids hit multiple concepts in a short period of time, use inquiry, and make generalizations.
Ms. Sneed Tries Science Stations
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, was feeling bogged down. “My schedule is so tight,” she moaned. “When can I teach science?”
Her teammate, Mr. Frank, felt her pain. “Wait, you forgot the part where the science series doesn’t correlate with the standards.”
“And the activities are lame,” added their mentor, Mrs. Brown.
“You know what I’d like to try?” asked Ms. Sneed. “Science stations.”
Hit the Standards
“That sounds like fun,” Mr. Frank replied, but how will we hit the standards?”
“We’ve been working on deconstructing standards,” said Mrs. Brown. “Let’s try to use this energy standard as a springboard to your sound stations:
4-PS3-2 Make observations to provide evidence that energy can be transferred from place to place by sound, light, heat, and electric currents.
“That’s really broad,” Ms. Sneed commented. She sat down at her computer and began to type. “With a little research, I find that kids in fourth grade normally learn how sound travels, as well as about amplitude, pitch, conductors and insulators.”
“That should cover it,” said Mr. Frank. “What do you think about taking it one notch higher? They could explore the differences in how sound travels through solids, liquids, and gases.”
“Perfect. We can hit six different concepts in 90 minutes. The following day we’ll reinforce concepts with selected videos. Then we’ll review and assess. Great! A one-week sound mini unit!”
Ask Targeted Questions
The teachers decided that their sound stations would focus on six questions:
- What Is Sound?
- How Does Sound Travel?
- What Is Pitch?
- What Is Amplitude?
- Which Materials Conduct and Insulate Sound?
- Does Sound Travel Better Through Solids, Liquids, or Gases?
Use Simple, Everyday Materials
“Let’s take turns with the materials so we can save time,” Ms. Sneed said.
Over the next few days, the teachers created inquiry-based lab sheets and gathered simple, everyday objects. They placed materials for each station in a separate labeled bag.
As they worked, something dawned on Ms. Sneed. “Hey, I can see how to teach science stations. We’re basically placing a short, self-driven science lab at each center.”
Arrange Science Stations Around Perimeter of Room
The following week, they were ready. Ms. Sneed was the first to set up stations. She wanted her students to rotate around the perimeter of the room. Therefore, she strategically placed materials at tables, on counters, and even on her own desk.
Rotate Groups Through Science Stations
After explaining the process to her students, she reminded them how to work in groups. Then each group headed to a different station. Every ten to fifteen minutes, Ms. Sneed rang a bell, and the groups rotated to the next station.
Following the directions on their lab sheets, kids plucked, shouted, clapped, and blew. Engagement was at an all time high. Ms. Sneed’s eyes twinkled. This was teaching magic!
At each station, individual students recorded observations and made generalizations. Using inquiry, they discovered scientific concepts on their own.
As the students completed their last station, Ms. Sneed exclaimed, “We may be using science stations all year long!” Her class cheered, and Ms. Sneed grinned. Stations would really improve her physical science unit.
Enjoy Teaching with Science Stations
As time went on, Ms. Sneed used more science stations. First, she added stations for her light unit. Second, she created a set for thermal energy. After she got revved up, Ms. Sneed included stations for speed and energy. One of her favorites was static electricity. “You know what?” she asked her teaching partner one day. “Then kids move around the room and investigate on their own, I enjoy teaching even more.”