Creating a Science Center
What is a Science Center?
A Science Center is a permanent place in your classroom where science supplies are stored and where active science can take place at any time. While it should be engaging and organized, it need not be large or elaborate. Whether your Science Center is a table, countertop, shelf, or a couple of desks pushed together, plan to incorporate these components:
- Storage for science materials. If you have enough room, store science supplies permanently for easy access. If space is limited, rotate materials related to the current lesson.
- A work space. Have a surface where you can place activity setups related to lessons. Depending on how much room is available in the Science Center, individuals or small groups can work there or take materials to their desks.
- Displays. The Science Center is an excellent place to display posters from the curriculum, notes and questions generated during class discussions, student work, and science word banks.
- Collections of objects to explore. Initially exhibit items you provide or take from a science kit. As the unit builds, add objects that children bring to show their interest in the class’s current science topic.
- Books. Place relevant fiction and non-fiction science books in the Science Center as well as in your reading area.
How does a Science Center help children learn?
A Science Center gives students opportunities to revisit or extend the concepts presented in science lessons, using their own initiative and working at their own pace. Often children learn more by returning to explore an idea, rather than being expected to plumb its depths at first exposure. These opportunities for independent study offer children a foundation for lifelong appreciation and pursuit of science.
Work to make your Science Center a welcoming, wonder-filled place that encourages and enables students to:
- Observe and explore interesting objects and phenomena
- Peruse relevant books
- Repeat and modify activities from the lessons
- Explore concepts from the lessons or related concepts in depth
How can I incorporate a Science Center into my busy classroom?
Science Centers can be used in many ways. For example:
- As a small group workspace. After an introductory discussion and instructions about next steps, rotate groups through the Science Center to complete assigned explorations with particular materials.
- Returning for further work. Send groups or pairs to the Science Center during center rotation times to revisit materials and ideas that were introduced during science lessons.
- Free choice. Allow individuals or pairs to use the Science Center during free choice time to explore self-directed activities of what they are most interested in. Assist by providing a range of materials.
- During reading time. Encourage children to choose books from the Science Center as part of their reading program.
Tips for managing a Science Center
Whether children are using the Science Center upon their own initiative or they are assigned to go there, you can optimize their independent work in the Science Center in these ways:
- Communicate your expectations that students remain focused on their work, use materials carefully, and collaborate well while working in the Science Center.
- Involve students in setting up and maintaining the Science Center. Help them keep the materials well organized and the displays attractive.
- Limit the number of students in the Science Center at a given time.
- Provide students enough time to work with the materials, perhaps giving them opportunities to return at a later time when necessary.
- Periodically make time for students to share and discuss their Science Center explorations and discoveries.
For more information
For general information about setting up a Science Center in your classroom, see “Creating a Science-Friendly Environment,” the second article in the Science Companion Teacher Reference Materials.
In addition, each Science Companion module’s Teacher Lesson Manual contains specific suggestions for Science Center materials, displays, activities, record-keeping, and Science Center management related to the module as a whole and to individual lessons.