Strategy

Scientific Sensory Station

Sensory Play, 5 Senses Science

UDL 1.2

Scientific Sensory Station is a play-based learning center in which students use their senses to explore scientific concepts. First, a teacher prepares the center by identifying the concept to focus on (e.g. weather, cause and effect, water cycle). Then, the teacher gathers materials that allow for engaging, hands-on exploration of the selected concept. Stations typically contain a variety of materials to touch and observe (e.g. seeds, cups of soil, rocks, sticks, shells), as well as other materials to engage all of the students’ senses (e.g. fragrant flowers and herbs, audio recordings of nature sounds with headphones). Stations may also include picture books about the five senses for students to explore. A Scientific Sensory Station allows students to engage all of their senses for an immersive learning experience.

Implementation Tips

Preparing Students for Stations
Practice inquiry-based learning with students. Display visual aids, such as a poster of the scientific method, near the station. Model making a hypothesis, exploring answers through sensory play, and drawing conclusions.
Facilitating Inquiry
Ask open-ended questions of students and chart answers on butcher paper, or facilitate sharing responses aloud. This sends the message that the play is purposeful and important. Check out [[http://decal.ga.gov/documents/attachments/Questions_Children_Think.pdf|this resource]] from Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning for some examples of open-ended questions geared toward younger students.
Modeling
Demonstrate exploring multiple possible uses for items. For instance, model using shells to make texture drawings and also to make music or jewelry. Or, demonstrate using a ruler both to measure and also as a balance. Students will be empowered to engage in scientific inquiry if they don’t feel confined to one "right" way to use an item. Verbally encourage and reinforce new and creative uses for items.
Ongoing Implementation
Make the Sensory Science Station a regular part of the centers rotation. Allow students to explore at their own pace and as often as they desire. As with all learning stations, sensory materials should be rotated frequently to peak students’ curiosity and engage them in ongoing exploration.
Obtaining Materials
Collect a variety of materials that students can touch, hear, look at, smell and taste. These can be found at a craft supply store, a garden store, a secondhand store, on school grounds or even in your own backyard. Alternately, take students on a walking field trip to collect some of the materials. Choose objects that can easily be replaced.
Encouraging Parallel Play
Avoid having only one of any item. Young children benefit from working alongside a peer who has the same materials. Place like items near one another to encourage parallel play.
Investing Students
Invite students to bring in materials that they find on their adventures at home, such as plants and sticks. When students contribute to the classroom learning, they are invested in the learning process. Place some limits on what materials and how many materials you will allow.

Examples

Exploring with the Five Senses
After reading a book to preschool-aged students about the [[http://www.themeasuredmom.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/5senses-4-590x473.jpg|five senses]], a teacher tells students they will be using their senses to explore nature. The teacher arranges five different stations, each focusing on a specific sense (e.g. sight, sound, touch, taste, hear). At the “sight” station, students are instructed to use only their eyes to observe colorful leaves and flowers. While at the “smell” station, the teacher has different jars with holes poked into the lids filled with items that have strong, natural scents such as lemons, pine cones, and mint. For the “touch” station, students are encouraged to touch different natural materials such as dirt, sand, and flower petals. For the “hearing” station, students can take turns using natural items such as sticks and pine cones in cars to make sounds. Lastly, students take the opportunity to “taste” nature by chewing on mustard flowers, mint leaves, sugar cane, etc. After the students complete all of the stations, the teacher gathers the students into a whole group to share their observations. As students respond (e.g. “I saw a pretty flower!”, “I ate a strawberry!”), the teacher asks probing questions (e.g. “What color is the flower?”, “What sense did you use?”) and charts their responses on a [[https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/8d/ce/47/8dce47c6fe3e2c2a5108141ea0dd2168.jpg|five-senses anchor chart]] (e.g. “We use our ‘sight’ to see color”).
Using Tools to Observe
After spending time freely exploring and playing with items from nature (e.g. leaves, seeds, pine cones} at the Sensory Science Station, the teacher tells students that they will be adding tools to make and record observations of the nature items. Prior to adding them to the station, the teacher introduces the tools (e.g. rulers, child-friendly scales, magnifying glasses, and whiteboards with dry erase markers) and models using them in various ways. Students are then encouraged to explore the station during their centers rotation. After students have examined the items, the teacher gathers students into a whole group discussion to share their observations. As students respond, the teacher records the responses on chart paper (e.g. “The leaf has two points”).

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