Interactive Science Notebooks

Insights don’t usually arrive at my desk, but go into notebooks when I’m on the move. Or half-asleep.

Hilary Mantel
graphic showing a lab beaker in front of a notebook

The Interactive Science Notebook is a personal journal of the students’ learning using pictures, sketches, notes, and data. As they explore science problems, students form their own hypotheses which may or may not agree with those of their group. The ISN becomes the workbench where students explore and develop conclusions. The notebooks provide the nuts and bolts for presentations and evidence for reasoning.

There are three great benefits to using ISNs in your STEM classroom.

  • It prepares students to collaborate globally. The notebook gives students opportunities to think critically and evaluate observations, claims, and explorations of their peers. Students wrestle with real-world problems – doing what scientists do – thinking independently while collaborating with peers. Their academic language develops as ideas are formed, connections are made, and assessments are mastered based on evidence that is recorded and discussed.
  • It increases communication between stakeholders (student, parent, and teacher). Kellie Marcarelli explains that calling the science notebook interactive makes sense. The term emphasizes how the notebook supports the synergy that occurs between the student, teacher, and parent. The ISN provides a space where classroom experiences are collected and organized to enable students to review previous notes when the information is required for future discourse. Since much of its content is first-hand knowledge (data, observations, musings, etc.), the notebook is a valuable resource for supporting arguments. Additionally, parents and teachers may use the notebook to stimulate a discussion to help students in their journey of science understanding, especially if new insights are needed.
  • It differentiates instruction to meet the needs of all students. The notebook provides a safe space to develop and reinforce scientific and/or academic language. It can be reviewed at meetings with intervention specialists to provide evidence of a student’s development and can help facilitate future strategies for teaching and learning.


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