This past week, we have been experiencing, planning, enacting and observing science inquiry stations. I view inquiry stations as an invaluable resource for teachers for a few reasons:
- They promote teaching science as inquiry. Answers and solutions are uncovered, not simply written on the board or revealed orally. Inquiry stations are open ended and encourage diverse trails of thought.
- They are student-focused. Properly designed and constructed inquiry stations allow for the classroom teacher to step back and encourage students to take the reins of their learning. Once they have stepped back, teachers can then insert themselves strategically within an inquiry station if they notice their students are struggling, on the cusp of discovery or looking for a new challenge.
- They are short and sweet yet immensely powerful. As science instruction has continued to fall to the wayside thanks to an increase in math, reading and language arts, teachers are left with fewer opportunities to teach science. Inquiry stations pack a powerful intellectual punch and work best when implemented in short, 15-20 minute windows.
- They can be utilized anywhere in the 6E lesson plan. Inquiry stations can be used to spark students’ interest in a topic (engage), uncover new information (explore) and encourage them to stretch their thinking beyond what they may have already known (elaboration).
- They encourage the use of science notebooks. Throughout an inquiry station, students can utilize their science notebooks to hypothesize outcomes, record observable data, jot down questions and draw conclusions without diminishing the desired outcome(s) of the station.
- They build on other content areas. When aligning your lesson plans according to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), inquiry stations encourage students to connect their thinking with their previous knowledge in other content areas.
- They encourage life skills. Creativity, problem solving, trial and error, experimenting, tinkering and critical thinking are all essential components of properly designed and created inquiry stations.
I look forward to utilizing inquiry stations in my future classrooms. I can’t help but imagine how valuable this strategy may become if we continue down the standards-based road we have been. If we decide to redirect our thinking when it comes to educational policy, the inquiry station will still be useful in the classroom. In fact, I would argue that inquiry stations would become an even more powerful resource in a non standards-based curriculum.