Have you ever thought about using science stations in the classroom? I had never really considered using stations – after all, aren’t they for elementary students? But one particular school year made me desperate to find a different way to engage my students. Read on to find out why I tried stations and how I used them in my classroom.
Why I Tried Science Stations in the Classroom
I was always pretty proud of the ways that I managed my high school science classroom. I had a good rapport with the kids for the most part (there’s always that ONE, right?) and I very seldom had any real problems other than the occasional chatty student.
Then, about 12 years ago, my district decided to switch my biology course from sophomores to freshmen.
Oh. My. God!
Suddenly I’ve got pencils broken on the floor, spit wads whizzing by my head, and more classroom drama than I’ve ever seen!
My normal classroom management style was NOT going to work going forward. I knew I needed to change things up if we were ever going to accomplish anything.
Stations in a High School Science Class??
My elementary teacher friends were always talking about stations and circle time. I was pretty sure that I didn’t want my students gathered around me on a carpet on the floor but I was intrigued by the idea of stations.
If you’re not familiar with them, stations are different areas set up around a classroom where students do different tasks and activities. I felt like my kiddos would be more engaged if they could be up and moving around the room. I was wary though because I could easily see things turning into a loud, chaotic mess!
But I decided to give it a shot. At this point, I really had nothing to lose.
How I Made My Lesson Plan
Whenever I try something new in class, I always over-prepare. So I took quite a bit of time planning out my first stations lesson. Here’s how I did it.
What Did I Finally End Up With?
The stations were set up so that it didn’t matter in which order the students did the stations. This would help with traffic flow.
Station 1 – this was an online activity where students manipulated different types of cells and cell structures to compare their size. I had 3 Chrome books set up in 2 separate stations.
Station 2 – this was a reading passage describing plant and animal cells. On the students’ recording sheets, there were analysis questions and vocabulary words. I put the reading passages in sheet protectors and taped them to the counters.
Station 3 – Here I had several microscopes set up with different prepared slides on them. There was a cheek cell slide, a paramecium slide, an Elodea slide, and an onion skin slide. Students chose 2 to draw and label, but they had to have one animal cell and one plant cell.
Station 4 – This was a sorting activity. Students had to match the organelle with its function and also sort them according to plant cell vs animal cell. As each group finished this station I checked their answers and then they wrote everything on their recording sheet.
How Did It Go?
I explained to the kids what we’d be doing and laid out my ground rules. I told them I would love to do more of this kind of lesson, but it would depend on how it went today. Then I divided them up into teams of 2 – 3.
I didn’t time them at each station because I felt that it would be too much for us as we were all getting the hang of this. I did include timed stations in later lessons.
Then … I just let them go, being ready for anything. I think I might have closed my eyes and prayed … lol.
And … I think I stood there for a minute with my mouth hanging open! They did fantastically well! They were talking of course but the level was like a low murmur. Every student was engaged and working at their stations, and I mean that literally. There was not a single kid that was distracted or poking at someone else.
I circulated around, listening in and helping out where needed, but honestly, there wasn’t much help needed. It was such music to my ears to hear them discussing things, using the vocabulary, and staying on task. This was what a high school science class should look like!
And there wasn’t a single spitball that whizzed by my head!
Did using science stations in the classroom solve all of my discipline issues? Of course not, but I started using stations and blended learning quite often and it seemed to help the overall classroom community atmosphere.
Have you tried using stations in your high school science classes? Please tell us how it went!