When I was student teaching I had three roommates who were also student teaching – one of which was in elementary school. She would come home and often talk about the stations she did with her students and I remember thinking – that sounds fun! I wonder how it would go to do stations in high school?
I didn’t have the energy to create stations during my student teaching experience – let’s be real, I was literally just trying to get through one day at a time. (Note: This is not a slight on my mentor teacher – he was incredibly kind and generous to me, but the only resources he had for me were overhead projector sheets in a massive filing cabinet…soooo I was kind of on my own in the resource creation department!)
At my first official teaching job I had a lot of district mandated resources I was using. We also were lucky to have a great science budget and I was able to do some really epic labs with my students using the materials we had available.
It wasn’t until my most recent teaching gig in a private school with literally 0 science budget (and teaching in a non-lab classroom without running water or safety equipment) that I circled back to the idea of considering how using stations in high school science could be really effective for my current situation. So I began creating tons of stations-based activities for my students, and I fell in love with them! Best of all, my students did too!
Here are a few reasons why I LOVE to use stations in high school science classrooms:
Stations are a GREAT way to get students out of their seats and moving productively.
Elementary students aren’t the only ones who want to get out of their seats! Stations in high school are a GREAT way to get our teenage students out of their seats and moving in a way that is both appropriate and productive.
It’s hard as high school teachers to create space (figuratively and literally) in our classes to allow our students to get up and move around. It is a lot easier for twenty 3 feet tall 1st graders to move around in a classroom than twenty 6 feet tall 10th grade boys. Stations, however, make it possible to get them out of their seats and rotating around the room in a way that can be organized and not overwhelming (well, being in a room of moving post-puberty hormone-raging teens is always a tiny bit overwhelming, but you get the idea!)
Stations are an excellent method for reaching a variety of learners.
I LOVE that stations are an easy way to differentiate your instruction for a variety of learning needs and styles. Accommodating a wide spectrum of learners is just plain hard. Stations have been one of the resources I have used in my classroom to really make sure I am meeting all of my students’ needs. What do I mean by that?
I love that students can easily complete stations on their own, or with a partner. As an introvert myself I often hated the classes that constantly forced group work on me. With stations, I could easily allow the students that wanted to work independently to do so, and my more social learners to work together.
Along those lines, I love that they allowed flexibility for students to pace themselves with the content, as needed. Students that needed to work at a slower pace could easily do so without everyone in the class being aware. Best of all, station days were the perfect time for me to meet one-on-one with students that needed more intervention and support. I loved how I could really engage with students in small groups on these days to ensure I was meeting the needs of every learner.
Stations are an engaging way to replace lecture, making learning student-centered rather than teacher-centered.
This is probably my favorite reason I love to use stations in high school. The vast amount of information many of us are expected to cover in our high school classes makes it easy to slip into a traditional lecture mode. I have LOVED using stations as a way to replace lecture and engage students in the content. When sharing content through stations rather than lecture, the acquiring of knowledge becomes student-centered rather than teacher-centered. You can also cover a LOT of material this way in a relatively short amount of time!
Stations are a GREAT alternative to full labs if you minimal resources.
I wanted my science classes to be engaging and hands-on for my students, but I had zero equipment or space in my classroom to do the types of labs we typically think of doing in high school science courses. The chemistry teacher down the hall did have a set of beakers, graduated cylinders, and other basic equipment, but anything I needed would have to be rolled down the hall on a cart and stored in my tiny classroom until the period I needed to use it. Or, I would have to coordinate with the teacher to swap classrooms so that I could do a lab in his room.
It was a LOT to plan and manage, but I found with stations I could easily take larger labs and split them into small chunks, each represented by a station.
I then only needed enough supplies for each station, not necessarily for a full class of students. Students could then rotate to each station in groups, use their hands and experience that part of the lab, before rotating to the next. This gives them hands-on experience at a fraction of the amount of resources you would typically need to conduct a lab for a class of 30.
How have you used stations in high school subject areas? Especially if you are a science teacher, I would LOVE to hear how they have been effective instructional tools for you. You can reach out to me on my contact page or by DM-ing me on Instagram.
Looking for more help with stations? Check out my posts on my 7 favorite ways to use stations, 5 most practical tips for implementing stations effectively, and a few challenges that may arise with my best tried-and-true solutions!