Flashback to my early years as a teacher. Science station ideas were not even a thought in my mind as I was sitting on my bed, editing a PowerPoint about tectonic plates and plate boundaries at 11:45 PM.
The next day, not only was I OVER talking by 5th hour, I found so many mistakes in my presentation. I wanted to cry. Have you been there?
Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that kids just need to know some things, and direct instruction does have its place in the classroom. But, students also need to explore, talk, and investigate more often than we need to “teach” them.
I began teaching with science stations in the classroom somewhat by accident. Now, I include science stations regularly. On purpose.
Science Stations For Middle School Are Not The Same As Group Work
To be clear, just because students are in a group or working together does not mean that they’re participating in stations. I’ve decided that the following are my personal science stations for middle school requirements:
- Students are placed in small groups and given a start location.
- A small task is given to the group with a time constraint to complete it.
- Students get up and move to the next station.
Instead of spending too much time the night before making groups, I like to use these student grouping cards. They make putting students into groups so easy, and it only takes about a minute!
Three Easy Science Station Ideas
Science stations for middle school can be so much more versatile than placing a few task cards on tables. When done correctly, they can add so much life to your classroom. These are my top three favorite science station ideas.
Learning at Science Stations
The goal behind this science station idea is that students walk away learning something new.
Incorporating learning as one of my student group activities every once and a while helps add some variety to how students are learning.
Sometimes students need to know vocabulary and each station will have just a couple words with pictures and definitions. Other times, I’ll break up a reading passage and put a section at each station with guided notes or questions they have to answer.
Rotate Students Through Content
Students rotate to different stations where there is a small section of something they’re supposed to learn. After they’ve completed every station, they’ll have all the information they’re supposed to.
One example of this is this moon phases stations activity. Before students engage in an investigation about moon phases, they visit four different stations where they will read about different moon phase topics. They have to complete a fill-in-the-blank guide that will stay in their notebook. It’s just enough info to clarify what they’ll do in the investigation.
I highly suggest that you follow up with whole class direct instruction after learning stations so that students all glean the information you want them to, not just what you hope they got.
The good news is that you don’t have to spend as much time on that direct instruction. You simply want to reinforce the content.
Practice and Review Stations
Practice and review are what I think of first when I’m trying to come up with science station ideas.
These stations include task cards, review questions, and practice problems. Middle school students have already been taught what they need to know in order to complete these science stations successfully. Now they work to master that content.
Brush up on content students should already know
I always begin my school year with a graphing review mini-unit. I’ve found that even eighth graders mostly need some refreshers on simple bar and line graphs.
After I teach what all graphs need and the difference between bar and line graphs, I let them practice at graphing review stations. Each station has two different graphs they need to create. Some graphs are made individually, and others they create as a group.
But they work together, talk, and come to a consensus before they make that graph. By the end of the stations activity, they know how to make a perfect graph!
Silly Story review activities are also one of my favorites for review stations!
Explore and Inquiry Stations
Coming up with science station ideas for exploration and inquiry can be a little bit tricky, but some of the best learning happens at these science stations.
Students learn something new at each station through investigation. Their task is outlined, but they come up with the answers.
One idea to incorporate inquiry stations is with the bird beak lab. Instead of giving a different utensil to each person in the group, place the same utensil at one station and rotate students through the stations.
After they’ve tried the beaks at every station, they can draw conclusions as to what kind of food a bird with that beak would most likely eat.
Another great science station idea is this food web interdependence graphing activity. First, students create a food web based on information they get at learning stations. Then, they work at stations to make graphs based on one population of that food web changing. The inquiry stations serve to get them really thinking about how the animals in a food web are connected.
Students have to think critically
Each graph has questions prompting them to critically think about the results of that change. The students work through the content to find the answer themselves.
As with learning science stations, I’d recommend you follow up with some quick direct instruction or review of the correct answers. You will definitely have some kids who don’t draw the correct conclusions. This time gives them a chance to see what the correct answers are and where they may have gone wrong.
Just try some of these science station ideas!
Using different types of science stations in the classroom can bring some life into a lesson could very well be a “sit down and work” assignment. My challenge to you is to try one of these stations in the next few weeks in your classroom. See what happens. What if the kid who always goes to sleep will actually turn in something? What if you don’t have to talk literally all day and still get the same results.
I think it’s worth it.
As always, be sure to set expectations for how students should act at and move to stations.