Exploration Stations are also sometimes called Science Tables and are like centers or stations, that students can visit during an appropriate time to learn and do science activities. They help increase opportunities for students to build and extend understanding. They become another iteration of the content in a different mode and method.
Exploration Stations are a great way for students to build independence and exercise more of their own choice and voice. Because constructivist, inquiry-based classrooms invite some cognitive disequilibrium, Exploration Stations are one way for helping students own this uncertainty and take charge of working toward deeper understanding as can be seen in this Education Leadership article, Inviting Uncertainty into the Classroom, which states that allowing students to grapple with open-ended problems helps students respond well to uncertainty. Exploration Stations can be both an invitation to wrestle with those problems and a resource for finding ideas when students might be stuck. Using Learning Centers suggests that well managed centers can actually lead to easier classroom management and fewer discipline issues. The Scholastic article Learning Centers, Part 1: Why They’re Important makes the case that centers are very developmentally appropriate especially in early elementary. Science in Early Childhood Classrooms: Content and Process presents a research-based case for using centers and some good examples of their use.
Several resources for setting up Exploration Stations include: