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Lab Safety Tip of the Week #5

What You Need to Know About Your Eyewash Fountain and Safety Shower

Required Reading for the Week:

When was the last time you tested your eye wash fountain and your lab safety shower?  Did you know that they are supposed to be flushed once a week according to ANSI standards?    I think it is safe to say that the plumbed emergency equipment in our science labs is often neglected.  We walk past the eyewash and the shower day after day after day, but rarely stop to inspect it.  Since I have never had to pull the handle (thankfully!) on either piece of equipment in an emergency, I rarely stop to think about the routine maintenance that is required.

But I am not the expert.  And while I hope this blog post puts a nagging reminder in your brain, use the links in this post to read what the experts have to say.  My go-to source of lab safety information is Flinn Scientific.  Read this article about the eyewash and safety shower.

Here are the basics about the lab eyewash fountain:

  • The eyewash must provide a flow of water to both eyes simultaneously.
  • The affected area must be irrigated for a minimum of 15 minutes.
  • Keep both eyes open and rotate eyeballs in all directions.
  • Regulation of volume and pressure is required to maintain a soft flow of water to the eyes.
  • Location of the eyewash is important.  Travel time from a work station to the eyewash should be within 10 seconds.
  • Water temperature should be "tepid" which means lukewarm.  Acceptable temperature range is 78 - 92 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Weekly testing should occur to verify flow.  This also clears the water line to remove dirt from the pipes.

Here are the basics about the lab safety shower:
  • The shower should provide a deluge large enough to encompass the whole body.
  • Remove contaminated clothing.  Every second counts. Don't be modest.  It will only slow you down.  Remove contaminated clothing!
  • The shower should deliver a pattern of water that is 20 inches across.
  • Water flow should be 20 gallons per minutes at a velocity low enough to not injure the user.
  • The plumbed safety equipment should be clearly marked with signs and by painting the walls and floor surrounding the equipment a bright color.
For us middle or high school teachers,  words cannot begin to describe how busy we are during the school day.  If your safety equipment does not meet the standards, it is time to have a talk with your school administrator.  The safety of your students depends on it!

And please don't forget to take the time to inspect the equipment.  No eye wash fountain should ever look like this!

Classification and Taxonomy: Reviewing Important Concepts

This Kingdoms of Life Mix and Match Game is an excellent way to review the concepts of classification and taxonomy.

When teaching a unit on classification and taxonomy, the presentation of the six kingdom classification system seems pretty easy and straight forward, right? When I ask my students what kingdom frogs belong to, I know without a doubt that they are going to say "Animalia."  For our middle and high school life science students, learning which organisms belong to which kingdom is a simple task that is quickly and easily mastered.

But when I ask my students questions like these, they will hesitate.  And often give the wrong answer.
  • Name the kingdom that contains heterotrophic plants.
  • Name the kingdom in which all members are autotrophs.
  • Name the kingdom that contains prokaryotes with peptidoglycans in their cell walls.
  • Name two kingdoms in which all members are heterotrophs.
  • Name the kingdom that contains organisms with specialized cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems.
  • Name the kingdom in which all members have cell walls composed of cellulose.
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I have fallen in love with using mix and match card sort games as a way of reviewing and reinforcing concepts in my science classes.  My latest creation is this Kingdoms of Life Mix/Match Game.  

Students are given 6 larger cards.  Each large card has the name of one of the six kingdoms in the 6-kingdom classification system.  The set also has 80 "answer cards."  Students are tasked with matching the answer card to the correct kingdom.

The game comes with student answer sheets and a 7-page teacher guide.  The student answer sheets are optional, but I always have my students record the answer card statements on the answer sheet.  Writing is a way of studying, and the answer sheets make a great study guide for the unit test.  The teacher guide has lots of suggestions for how to use the game, directions for set up and implementation, and of course, a complete answer key.

The game is perfect for all life science students of different ability levels because you can easily differentiate the game for any group of learners.  By selecting which answer cards to use, you can make the game perfect for any ability level.

If you like this idea, you might want to check out my other mix/match games:
Cell Organelles Mix Match
Organic Compounds Mix Match 

The Nervous System

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Interactive Notebooks!
Bell Ringers!

Of all the human body systems, I think the nervous system is the hardest to teach.  Start a discussion on resting potentials, action potentials, and sodium potassium pumps and just watch the students get that glazed over look in their eyes.  What is the trick to teaching this tricky body system?  Give out the information in small doses, break up instruction time with short demonstrations and activities, and review, review, review!

If you have visited this blog at any time during the past year, you know I have become a huge fan of warm ups and bell ringers.  This teaching tool has insured that my students get the review and reinforcement they need to be successful in my class.  Daily warm ups require the students to look back into their notes from previous instruction to complete the daily review.
I am particularly excited about this set of nervous system warm ups.  This body system is complicated, and the daily review and reinforcement is vital to student mastery.  This set of warm ups has 37 student pages.  I use them for warm up activities, homework assignments and preparation for the unit test.  I require my students to keep the pages in a warm up notebook.  These pages are also ideal as inserts into interactive notebooks.  I have definitely noticed an increase in test scores since I started requiring my students to keep a warm up notebook.

This Table of Contents will give you a better idea of the topics and concepts that are covered by the 37 student warm up pages.

The last 5 student warm pages are always used to prepare for the unit test. These pages consist of multiple choice, fill in the blank, compare and contrast and true/false questions.  They are first used to prepare for the unit test, but later become perfect for the semester exam review.

I hope you are having a great school year.  Good luck with your teaching!

Lab Safety Tip of the Week #4

Tip #4:
Wear Your Safety Goggles
('nuff said!)

Required Reading for the Week:  "Wear Your Safety Goggles."

Accidents happen so quickly.  And hindsight is a wonderful thing.  In the above article, a science teacher has permanent damage to the eye after conducting a demonstration with no eye protection.  And a college student goes in late to their organic chemistry lab, and joins a group of two other students at the fume hood.  An explosion occurs in the hood.  The student was present in the lab less than two minutes and now has permanent eye damage.  It seems so simple after the fact.... Why didn't you have on your safety goggles?

As a science teacher, I have to plead guilty.  I have often prepped a lab for my students without wearing goggles. But when my students are engaged in lab activities, I am a stickler for the rules.  We wear the goggles.  Always. No questions asked.  But it is always a battle.  Students do not like to wear safety goggles, and I am constantly having to tell  students to put their goggles back on.  Unfortunately, most of us are having to carry 30 (and sometimes more!) students into the lab.  As soon as you tell one student to put their goggles back on, another student across the room has taken theirs off!  Sound familiar?

You, as the instructor, have to be persistent and consistent.  Establish the rule of wearing safety goggles.  Do not deviate from this rule (EVER!), and have consequences for those who do not obey the rules.  Have a conversation with your school administration about lab safety to establish a plan of action for those students who fail to follow the rules.   You want to make sure that you have "back up" from admin in case consequences to the student need to be doled out.

Let's move away from student behavior, and on to the goggles themselves.  What kind should you use?  Are all goggles the same?

All goggles are not the same!  And even though many types of goggles might meet regulations and guidelines and be approved for our school labs, some of them are not the best choices for our students.  In my opinion, eye protection should have a complete and snug fit around the eye, and be held to the face by a strap that goes around the back of the head. Yes, the students hate these types of goggles, but it is a battle worth fighting.  Here is an excellent article from Flinn Scientific about regulations and standards of safety goggles.

Next topic:  The storage and sanitation of goggles.  I took this picture a few years ago while visiting in a neighboring high school.  If you are going to use one classroom set of goggles, and students will be sharing goggles with other students, please take great care in the sanitation of goggles. This picture shows a great goggles sterilizer, but it was not being used correctly.  Goggles were not placed in individual slots.  They were haphazardly thrown in the cabinet.  The inside of the sterilizer was dirty, and it was obvious the goggles had never been washed. Here is an excellent video on the use of the goggles sterilizer.  If at all possible, I highly recommend that each student have their own pair of goggles that are not shared with another student.

In summary:

  • Students must wear goggles and this is not negotiable!
  • Make sure you purchase eye protection that meets the safety standards.
  • Practice what you preach!  The instructor needs to be be the role model in laboratory safety.
Have a great school year!

Helping Students Review and Reinforce Biochemistry and Organic Compounds

Master the Information with this Organic Compounds Mix/Match Game 

It's that time of year again.  Time to teach the dreaded unit on Biochemistry!  (Insert scary music here.)

I love the phrase, "Nothing in Biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution."  I would like to add to that, "...except in the light of evolution and biochemistry."  In my mind, there is simply no way to teach cell physiology, cell division, photosynthesis, enzymatic reactions, or cellular respiration without first teaching a solid unit on biochemistry and organic compounds.

The concepts of biochemistry are difficult, and unfortunately, this is the unit that our biology students are usually faced with at the very beginning of the school year. Teaching strategies, labs, and review activities are especially important at this time. This mix/match review game will provide the review and reinforcement that you are looking for.

The set includes 4 larger cards, each with the name of one of the groups of organic compounds.  There are 75 smaller answer cards. Students must match the answer card statements to the correct group of organic compounds.

One of the things that I love best about this activity is that the game can be customized for different grade levels and ability levels.  An advanced class should use all of the cards.  A younger grade or slower-paced class should use only the answer cards that are appropriate.  Remove any answer cards that you have decided not to use.  The game can be made easy or hard based on your particular students.   It is very easy to differentiate within the same class. By placing the game pieces into small Ziplock bags, you can easily give a "customized" bag to each group of students in your class.

Once the students have completed the card sort, have them record the answer card statements on the student answer sheet.  When students write, it helps them learn and commit the information to memory.  Students can easily do this on their own notebook paper as well.  Blank cards are included so you can add additional answer card statements.

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I make these cards available to my students before school, after school, and/or during their study hall.  It is a great way to review for the unit test. Best of luck as you teach your unit on biochemistry!  Have a great school year!

Teaching About the Immune System

Tough Topic!
(Made Easier with these warm ups and interactive notebook pages.)

I have a love/hate relationship with the immune system.  I love teaching it.  It is interesting, confusing, amazing, and mind-boggling.  Students are interested in this topic, they are more alert on these days, and they ask great questions.  This is where the "hate" part comes in.  I am just a science teacher, with multiple college degrees, but I have NOT been to medical school.  When teaching about the immune system, students LOVE to ask you all sorts of medical questions.  Some I can answer, but many I cannot ... and should not ... even attempt!

So what's a science teacher to do?  Even though I don't know about every medical condition known to man, I still enjoy teaching about the immune system.  I love the lines of body defense, infectious diseases, the Germ Theory, and Koch's Postulates.  Lymphocytes and antibodies are the best!  I can get really excited and animated when talking to students about the specificity of antibodies, how they are made in the body, and why we get sick, but later have immunity.

Keep your students focused on the important information.  Avoid medical issues, and refer the students to their physicians when those sorts of questions arise.  My newest set of warm ups and interactive notebook pages on the immune system is a perfect way to keep the students directed, focused, and on task.

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view product.
My "modified" version of interactive notebook pages are not "foldables" and they do not require any elaborate cutting, pasting or folding.  They are truly "NO PREP" and perfect for a high school classroom where every valuable minute of our class time must be utilized as efficiently as possible.

The student pages are half-page in size and easily inserted into their student notes.  I like to have my students keep a warm up notebook.  These pages are perfect for the first few minutes of class.  Students begin to work on them immediately as they enter the classroom.  The review and reinforcement nature of the pages provides ample opportunities for students to master the information.  I use these pages as warm ups, homework assignments, and even as short daily quizzes.

The warm up notebook is the best method of test prep I have found, both for the unit tests as well as for the semester exams and end of course exams.

Here is a preview to what is offered in my Immune System Warm Ups.

Best of luck in your teaching!

This blog post is part of the Secondary Smorgasbord Blog hop event for secondary teachers.

Thanks to Darlene Anne Curran (The ELA Buffet) and Pamela Kranz (Desktop Learning Adventures) for hosting our monthly blog hop event!  

Curious to see W
hat's Ringinin other secondary classrooms? Take a look at the great link ups below.

Lab Safety Tip of the Week #3:

Tip #3:
Be Ready for the Students to Return to Class!

Required reading for this week:  Worst Lab Accidents in History:  Labs are Dangerous!

In today's lab safety tip of the week, I wanted to present some statistics about accidents in school labs.  After doing some internet searching I have come to realize that there is very little in the way of statistics about school lab accidents.  You can find lots of articles about individual accidents, but there is not any cumulative data that I could find.  How many kids get hurt each year?  How many are burned by heat?  How many suffer from chemical  burns?  I wonder how shocked we would be if we had the answers to these questions.

Many students have already returned to classrooms across the country, and the rest will soon follow as Labor Day approaches.  So the focus of the tip of the week is ... Are you ready for the students to return to class?  I am not referring to such things as having enough desks in your room, or getting paper from the supply room.  What I mean is:  Do you have your lab safety plan in place and ready to roll out when students enter your room?

Here is a checklist of things to consider and to have ready when students return to your class:

  • Lab has been inspected.  You have checked all water faucets, electrical outlets and gas jets.  Work orders have been submitted for any faulty items.
  • You have cleaned and tested the eyewash fountain.
  • You have tested the safety shower.
  • Fire blanket is accessible.
  • Fire extinguisher has been inspected.
  • You have enough goggles for each student.  
  • Lab aprons are clean and readily available. 
  • Lab tables are clean and each lab station is stocked with basic items.  
  • Sinks are clean and drain properly. 
  • Chemicals are properly stored and locked in a chemical storeroom.
  • Any unlabeled chemicals should be discarded from the chemical storeroom.
  • Fume hood has been inspected to insure that it draws properly.
  • Glassware has been inspected.  Chipped and broken pieces have been discarded.
  • Exits from the lab are properly marked and unblocked.
  • Lab safety rules are posted in the classroom and in the lab area.
  • Have a handout of lab safety rules, and make enough copies for each student.
  • Have a lab safety contract and have each student and their parents sign it.  Keep on file all year long.
  • Have a medical emergency form for each student.  Be aware of the allergies or other medical conditions of your students.
  • Lecture on lab safety at the start of the year.
  • Prepare a quiz or test on lab safety.  Require each student to score 100% before allowing them in the lab.
  • Have MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) for each chemical you plan on using in a lab activity.
  • Talk to your administrator about how a crisis will be handled.  How will you summon help in an emergency?
Whew! There is a lot to do to get ready for our students to return to class!  To sum it up, the lab safety tip of the week is:  Be proactive, be prepared and be ready when the students return.

Have a great school year!