Students who physically experience scientific concepts understand them more deeply and score better on science tests, according to a new UChicago-led study. Furthermore, “Those students who physically experience difficult science concepts learn them better, perform better in class and on quizzes the next day, and the effect seems to play out weeks later, as well,”. Obviously, what we need to do is get our students out of their seats and engaging in the material we are presenting.
Unfortunately, the most common way students learn through doing is via traditional laboratory activities where there’s tons of setup, takedown, marking, etc. Unless you are lucky enough to have a lab tech, these tasks will keep you busy. After a few years of teaching science, I really felt the strain of labs and as a result, I didn’t do as many. I simply didn’t have time – not to mention the patience to get through the mind-numbing marking that comes along with it. I wanted my kids to experience the hands-on learning, but I needed to do things differently so it wasn’t all consuming. What I came up with was a blend of traditional lab activities and a bell ringer. These are my lab station activities and what I strive to do is get the students out of their seats, moving around and working collaboratively with each other.
How do the Lab Stations work? Each station is specially designed to be a unique complement to the material while at the same time, provide a valuable learning experience.
Station 1: Get Hands-On – using their creative skills, students are required to draw or build. i.e. Construct a simple circuit here – from Current Electricity and Circuit Diagrams.
Station 2: Research – using a classroom computer or their own device, students must research a specific question/issue surrounding the topic. i.e. research what it means that our Moon is in geosynchronous orbit – from The Moon and its Phases
Station 3: Explain yourself – students write down an opinion to a question in paragraph form. i.e. Space exploration is very expensive and some argue that we should be using that money to help people here on Earth. Clearly state your groups’ opinion with supporting reasons/evidence. – from Life In Space
Station 4: Rest Station – students can use this time to catch up on work they didn’t have time to complete at a previous station or prepare themselves for an upcoming one.
Station 5 – Applicability reading – students read a short passage from an article, website, etc. which directly connects the classroom content to a real life application. i.e. An article on targeting cancer therapies. – from Cancer Cell Division Gone Wrong
Station 6: Test your knowledge – students answer 5 multiple choice questions then provide a written explanation for how/why they came to their conclusions.
Station 7: Learn from the expert – using a classroom computer or their own device, students must watch a short video clip and answer the associated questions. They may stop, rewind and restart as often as they like during the time frame.
Station 8 – Rest Station.
Station 9: Become the question master – Students must create 2 multiple-choice questions, 2 true/false questions and 1 short answer question. Students must also supply the answers.Here’s the outline for my lab station activities.
How I’ve been specifically using my Lab Station Activities:
I’ve recently wanted to flip my classroom (at least partially anyways) and over the last few months, I’ve decided that the best way to fill the in class time wasn’t doing homework questions but instead, I thought it would be a great chance to utilize these lab station activities. So this year I’ve been using 1-2 station activities per week to great success. My students are highly engaged, they are learning faster and more efficiently and I’m happier because I’m enjoying teaching more than I have in ages.
How’s the marking you ask. I give 1-2 of these per week so my marking must be piling up you assume. Well, it isn’t and here are the two reasons why.
1) I group my students so I’m only getting 9 submissions per activity day.
2) Even though there are 7 activity stations that the students must complete, I only pick 2-3 to mark per activity based on the criteria. The students don’t know which I will mark and I change it each time.
I get more interaction with my students, they are happier, I am happier and my marking is no more than it used to be.