As we all know, research and general educational practice clearly indicates that students learn science best by doing it – not just reading about it. Hands-on, process and inquiry based science is the key to understanding science. Unfortunately, this is a double edged sword for science teachers in that doing science has its potential hazards and resulting risks. Science laboratories, classrooms and field work sites can be unsafe places to teach and learn. If a student gets hurt while doing an activity in the lab, in the field or even at home if it was a teacher’s assignment, there is potential shared liability for both the teacher and the school.
Organizing lab equipment.
The ACS Committee on Chemical Safety has published new Guidelines for Chemical Laboratory Safety in Secondary Schools. This document is organized with the R.A.M.P. concept – Recognize the hazard, Assess the risk of the hazard, Minimize the risk of the hazard, and Prepare for emergencies. The online document includes two pages for each letter that could be printed and posted in the classroom to reinforce these principles of safety. The documents are provided to strengthen the safety practices of teachers and help them to promote a culture of safety that their students will take with them throughout their academic and professional careers.
Undergraduates Need a Safety Education is the title found in the commentary section of the September 2016 Journal of Chemical Education. It is written by Robert H. Hill Jr and it explains the lack of safety education in chemistry curriculum. As I read this, I thought back to my safety education that prepared me for my role as a high school chemistry teacher and felt I was very fortunate to have had an undergradutae class that was specifically designed to teach chemical safety.
One of my favorite things to talk about with my colleagues is the use of lecture demonstrations in teaching. There seems to be a push in my district to stop using chemicals whenever possible and get to computer simulations and video in place of wet chemistry. I don’t think they are thrilled with me since I can’t envision ever taking the chemistry out of chemistry.
We continue to hear bad news about chemistry classroom accidents. Please share this with your cohorts. We cannot assume that everyone knows how to be safe when performing demonstrations.
With more than 30 safety violations shown, the cartoon serves as a great ice breaker as I have each student introduce themselves and then list a safety infraction being shown on the cartoon.
CLEAPSS is a subscription service, but our YouTube Channnel is an open source. The videos are designed for teachers and technicians in schools. They may just give you ideas. I have just put one up about electrostatics and the effect of magnets on water and oxygen. In a couple of weeks I hope to have a sequel showing the effect of magnets on precipitates and complexes.
The Royal Society of Chemistry became increasingly frustrated in 2004 when academics (the “when I was a lad” variety”), National Tabloids (it’s “‘elf un safety gone mad” variety), and many teachers were quoting health & safety fears as the reasons not to do practical science work and demonstrations.