When students return to school in the fall, one challenge for your science lessons will be elementary science labs. With social distancing guidelines and concerns to reduce sharing materials, we’ll have to be even more innovative on how to best implement labs. Here are 5 strategies for elementary science labs without sharing materials.
1. Elementary Science Labs Through Centers
As schools implement new guidelines, the distance between students is going to be a focus. First, centers provide a great way to break the class down into small groups. Divide your students into groups and have each group complete a different center each day. Depending on the class size, centers may look something like this:
1st Center: Watch a video to go over the content in the lab
- Each student in the group watches an engaging video that goes over relevant information about the topic.
2nd Center: Complete a reading and comprehension activity
- Each student in the group reads a science passage and answers questions over the topic at their own desk.
3rd Center: Complete the lab
- Typically, labs are performed in small groups to minimize the number of materials used. To maintain distance between students, have students from a group complete the lab individually. Then you can sanitize the materials before inviting the next group of students to complete the lab. If you can sanitize quickly, you may be able to have students complete more than one center per day.
4th Center: Analyze the findings from the lab
- The final center would be completed last for the entire class at their desks. Students could reflect on the lab individually or you can lead a discussion over the results of the lab.
You’ll have to be creative in establishing the groups and setting the order for each group. However, by using centers, students will be able to maintain distance while completing an engaging lab. In addition to this, the teacher will also be able to limit which supplies are out to ensure students are not sharing. By having one small group complete the lab each time, you can be there to facilitate the discussion while ensuring supplies are being appropriately used.
2. Virtual Elementary Science Labs
Virtual field trips have been incredibly popular during this time. In addition, many labs and universities are recording labs or offering interactive labs meant for younger scientists like your students. Yes, these are not as engaging as traditional labs, but they will still provide an opportunity for students to see science content come to life. Teachers can also stop the recording to ask students their predictions and break down what is occurring during each stop.
3. Science Lab Demonstrations
When students work in groups, they are often able to share supplies. However, this may not be able to happen for a while. Certain labs can be modified, such as by using the centers approach, but others may be challenging to modify. If a lab needs many supplies, it may be too expensive for students to complete while not sharing materials. However, the teacher can complete the lab with the students as the audience. The teacher can be filled with energy and excitement to help keep students engaged. For example, if learning about circuits, the teacher may demonstrate this for students. Throughout the demonstration, the teacher can ask guiding questions and have students make predictions as a whole class or in a small group. This might even become a new weekly routine with a catchy name to build excitement!
4. Individual Elementary Science Lab Setups
You can create individual setups for certain labs. This will definitely create more prep work, but it will allow students to complete a lab at their desks without sharing any supplies. Depending on the class budget, this option may work best for labs that require low-cost and easy-to-find materials and ones where students do not need too much of each supply. For example, if students are studying density, this can be done with common household supplies, such as honey, vegetable oil, pancake syrup, water, and rubbing alcohol. It may be helpful to create a few extra setups in case something spills or a step went wrong.
5. Personalized Inquiry-Based Labs
Depending on the content, students may be completing different labs based on the same theme. For example, if students are studying mass and looking at the force on an object, they each may design their own lab. Students may create ramps of different materials and use a toy car or create a car to calculate the distance traveled. Depending on the guidelines, students may bring resources from home or utilize a set amount of provided resources from the teacher. Each student could complete their own lab, test it, calculate what is required, and present their findings to the class.
Classrooms may look very different when returning in the fall, but students can still experience some of their favorite parts of school. Labs are fun and exciting and can still be incorporated. Yes, they may look different and have more guidelines for students to follow, but the extra work will be worth it when seeing students smile in the classroom again.