I find it so frustrating when a student is literally sleeping on their desk while I’m trying to explain something, but the moment… the actual moment we break into groups, they’re awake and chatty. This is the reason I incorporate science stations into my schedule almost weekly!
Students who are socializing are much more likely to be engaged with the content, even if they’re not spending every single second talking about what they’re supposed to be learning.
Science Stations Aren’t Only for Littles
Incorporating science stations in the classroom took me a long time to figure out. I did more so by accident than anything. I took small bits of information and placed them around the room, all while asking my students to go find each part.
Elementary school teachers use stations or centers all the time. Why do we stop using science stations in middle school? I’d argue, we shouldn’t.
These are my seven reasons why science stations in the classroom should be included in your science class!
1. School is not fun
Sorry, it’s not. Very few kids are truly internally motivated to be good students, and even they have rough days. We’re constantly competing for their attention. They want to talk to friends, scroll TikTok, or play games. The last thing they want to do is listen to teachers blab.
Take advantage of kids wanting to be social and include stations. Direct instruction and inquiry both have value. Don’t misquote me here. Incorporating stations that include inquiry, instruction, or even just practice can engage students differently. Suddenly, they want to participate. Or at least willingly write down whatever the rest of their group does. Count it as a win!
2. Stations allow exploring content with different learning styles
I’m big on this and always have been. All kids learn differently, but being exposed to content several different ways boost what they remember. Before I intentionally incorporated stations, I always found a way to make sure kids were drawing, writing, talking, and listening.
Some kids really do like to hear information, which is where direct instruction strategies can come into play. However, seeing pictures, talking about it, doing research, touching, or even reading engages kids with the content in so many ways.
Stations allow you to address a variety of learning needs, not just one.
3. Science Stations Allow for Movement!
Movement wakes up those sleepy kids I talked about earlier. Students are moving their legs from one place to another. They move their mouths as they talk. They’re likely trying to steal a pencil from a person in their group.
Movement gets their blood flowing and their hearts beating much more efficiently than sitting at their desk. They’re awake and interacting with the content, and their peers.
Including stations where students are not sedentary the whole class period has been one of my favorite additions. They talk, laugh, move, and it seems as though they overall enjoy class. But it’s in part because their body is not in chill mode. It’s in do mode.
4. Science Stations give students accountability
I have never had a student sleep through science stations. Ever. Even the most difficult students will at minimum copy what the rest of their group wrote down… most of the time. It’s not ideal. But hey, sometimes I’ll count that as a win!
Other times, the accountability lies within the group itself. If most of the group is writing an idea or answer down, the one student who may not be feeling it that day will participate because everyone else is.
5. Science stations naturally “chunk” your content
Chunking is usually an accommodation we see on student IEPs or 504s. That just means it’s good teaching practice. Science stations allow us to chunk information or tasks so our students can focus on that specific information or task before moving on.
I love to use this graphing review station activity at the beginning of the year. They’re graphing skills are always less than ideal.
Asking a student who struggles to make a graph to make eight is completely overwhelming. When I put one graph at a station and let them work with peers, suddenly the intimidation factor is gone. They still work through eight total graphs, but they do it one by one without becoming overwhelmed.
6. Stations allow you talk to students!
You heard that right. YOU have the chance to talk because you’re not tied to the front of the classroom. Finding out who your students are is the key to building relationships with them.
You can start a conversation with every student in your classroom. Start by asking if they have a pet and if so, what’s their name. If not, do they want one?
Do they have siblings? How many? Do they play sports? Play an instrument? Like a certain video game?
Asking non-academic questions signals that you’re interested in them. The flexibility given to you while students work in science stations allows you to naturally build rapport with them.
Before long, they’ll call you over asking if you can settle their argument about whether the square on their paper looks more like a diamond or a square!
7. Students get the chance to work with other people all the time
Middle school students like to talk. We’ve agreed on that. Socializing is one of the reasons science stations in middle school are so great.
I give kids plenty of opportunities to work on something with partners of their choosing or by themselves if they want.
The problem happens when I let kids choose their own groups. One group is always too big or someone gets left out. However, structuring science stations gets kids talking to every student throughout the year.
I use student grouping cards to randomize groups for the day. If students get stuck in a group they don’t like, they know it’s only for the day.
Usually by the end of the quarter, everyone has worked in a group with everyone else. Sometimes with friends, sometimes without. But it all works out.
Science stations are my favorite way to add variety to my classroom. On station days, the energy is bigger. Students are more excited. It seems as though more gets done by everyone, not just the kids who want good grades.
If you haven’t already tried using science stations in your classroom, try it. It might just be the change you’ve been looking for.