A science content center as part of your centers rotation can be a lot of fun for your students! Even your hard-to-reach students will love going to the science center. I have been thinking a lot about how I want to change my science center to work for my students next year.
My students usually visit the center about once a week for 30 minutes. There are about four students in the center at a time. Sometimes there is one specific task I want them to accomplish, and at other times I have a variety of choices available.
My “I can” cards
Students work in the science center during our math and reading intervention block. Students can easily strengthen their math and reading skills by working with science concepts. This application of literacy and math skills is what many students need AND want!
I try to make sure there are strong connections to literacy and informational text. While students may not necessarily be strictly reading about science for the entire time at the station, they are still following procedures, developing vocabulary, writing, communicating orally, listening to others, and creating.
Students make math connections through accurate measuring, determining averages, and creating graphs.
In the graphic below, I listed a few things I love using in my science content station. I’m going to focus on three of them in this post: vocabulary booklets, nonfiction text features, and mini-labs. I wrote about some different ideas on my blog.
Draw Your Own Nonfiction Text Feature
Students make their own nonfiction text feature based on a current or a past science topic. They may create one to accompany an article or a trade book they’ve been reading or may come up with an idea while at the station. I give them several choices for the type of nonfiction text feature they create.
- Draw a scientific picture using a photo or a personal experience and write a caption for it.
- Draw a labeled diagram.
- Create a chart and a graph using figures or information from your reading.
- Draw a map to display information from your reading.
Example of a chart with information about the appearance of the moon
My students are currently working on their science vocabulary booklets to review the important terms they learned this year. There are 36 terms with spaces to write the definition and draw a picture for each term. I encourage students to use their journals and materials I provide at the center if they need them. I have several trade books, a textbook, and a science dictionary available.
Throughout the year they have other science vocabulary options: matching activities, crosswords, making flash cards, vocabulary four squares, and making murals.
Download and print the Science Vocabulary Booklet from Google Docs. Be careful when copying this front and back; then, staple in the middle of the page and fold.
A mini-lab is a lab investigation that can be completed in a short period of time. I want my students to be able to complete the entire investigation during their center time and be able to do so without teacher assistance, since I’m usually with a small group for math or reading.
Mini-labs can be purchased or teacher-created. Most of the mini-labs I currently use have been created over time based on labs I’ve done with previous classes.
If you are considering using a science content center for the first time next year, then I have some advice for you. You can start small by using only one or two activities at a time. You can slowly add options for students as they gain independence and familiarity with the classroom expectations. Students tend to be on task at the science center. The main concern will probably be the materials. Choose appropriate activities based on your students, and make sure students know how you expect them to clean up after mini-labs.
Big thanks to Rachel for allowing me to guest blog at Minds in Bloom!
Ari, aka The Science Penguin, is a fourth grade teacher in Austin, Texas. She has her B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and M.A. in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She loves developing math and science materials for upper elementary students and hopes to create teacher resources full-time in the future. You can find her on Pinterest, TeachersPayTeachers, and Facebook. She blogs at The Science Penguin.