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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!

Lab Safety Tip of the Week #2

Tip #2:  
Make Use of Online Resources

Required reading for this week:
8 Violations for School in Wake of Lab Fire

Science teachers simply cannot receive enough training in laboratory safety.  For the first year science teacher, training in laboratory safety is a MUST!  But what about the veteran teachers?  After teaching for 30+ years, do I still need to receive training in laboratory safety?  The answer to that is an emphatic YES!!

Teachers are often asked to plan their own professional development.  In my school district, science teachers from all schools in the district meet as a group before students start school.  After school is in session, the science department within my school has monthly meetings.  I feel sure that this type of professional development occurs in other districts as well.  One priority of these annual or monthly meeting should be refresher courses in laboratory safety.

There are many, many online resources available to science teachers in laboratory safety training. And most of them are FREE.  At every single inservice held at the start of the school year, safety training should be required.  Check out the free lab safety videos from Flinn Scientific. Flinn offers 9 courses in laboratory safety, and each of them is free.  In this video, you can get an overview of all the safety training made available by Flinn,  Take advantage of this amazing resource!  Show one or more of these safety videos in your science department meetings.  (Please note that while I am a big fan of Flinn Scientific, I am in no way connected with this company.)  You can also find very comprehensive (and free) materials at Carolina Biological.

In reading about laboratory safety for this post, it seems that most accidents are occurring in the labs of veteran teachers.  I think arrogance, complacency, and "letting down your guard" are probably to blame.  This is the reason veteran teachers need continuing education in lab safety.  Will a veteran teacher learn anything new from such training?  Maybe not.  But it brings the issue of lab safety to the forefront of our thinking.  We need to be reminded, and often!

To sum it up, the lab safety tip of the week is:  Make Use of Free Online Resources to offer continuing lab safety training for the teachers in your department.

Links to other resources include:

The Lab Safety Institute
Environmental Health and Toxicology
Lab Safety Guidelines
OSHA Guidelines on Lab Safety

Excretory System: Warm Ups, Bell Ringers and Interactive Notebook Pages

Next in the growing set of Human Body warm ups is ......

The Excretory System!!  (Click this link to view product.)

The set ended with 18 titles.  I am particularly pleased with this set because I feel that the questions and activities included are more thought-provoking and include more higher order thinking questions.  The excretory system can be a difficult system to teach, but these warm ups are perfect for review and reinforcement each and every day.  Do a few in class and send a few home for homework.  I will be using some of the pages as quizzes as well.

The table of contents includes the following titles:

  • Introduction to the Excretory System
  • Regulating the Internal Environment
  • Waste Products
  • The Kidneys
  • Labeling the Kidney
  • Introduction to the Nephron
  • Labeling the Nephron
  • Parts of the Nephron
  • Filtration
  • The Loop of Henley
  • Maintaining Water Balance
  • Excretion
  • Thinking Critically About the Excretory System
  • Review the Vocabulary
  • Review: What’s the Relationship?
  • Review:  Fill in the Blanks
  • Review: Multiple Choice
  • Review:  True or False?

Due to the time of year (BACK TO SCHOOL!) I am a little short on time.  I hope you will understand when the rest of the post is in pictures.

Click on any of the images above to view this product in my TpT store.

The feedback I have been receiving on the Human Body warm ups has been phenomenal.  Thank you so much for your support!

Science Wear: Fun Classroom Activity!

Are you looking for something different (and fun!) for your science classes?  Well, look no further.  Science Wear is an affordable alternative to traditional classroom activities.

What exactly is Science Wear?  
Science Wear is a "hand-on, wearable science project."  Students are given the materials and the instructions on how to design and paint their very own t-shirt, apron or lab coat.  The shirts, aprons and lab coats come preprinted with an outline of the design.  Students paint, embellish, and label the structures on their shirt.

What are the benefits?
This is a fantastic way to reinforce the science skills that we teach every day in our classes.  The hands-on nature of the project is perfect for the visual learners.  Students get excited about science and love to wear their shirts at school.  (Just don't let them wear them on test day!)

Outside of the classroom, Science Wear is perfect for science club meetings, STEM clubs, birthday parties, and working on badges for scouting.  Kids learning while having fun ... Win-Win!

How can I learn more?
Check out the Science Wear website.  Jody Hodges (owner of Science Wear) has really outstanding "how-to" videos on YouTube.  You can also find her on Facebook and Pinterest.

Lab Safety Tip of the Week #1

Lab Safety:
Make It A Priority!

Another school year is about to begin. Do you have a lab safety instruction unit ready to use with your science students?

Every year at this time I review how I am going to address lab safety with my biology and chemistry students.  I update my lessons and materials that I will use with my students.  And I say a silent prayer that another school year will pass and my lab will remain accident free.

Our science students absolutely need GREAT lab experiences.  They need to use chemicals, Bunsen burners, hot plates, and glassware.  To do less would be depriving them of a good science education.  If you make laboratory safety a top priority with the students, they will respond.  When they see you being safe and stressing safety at the beginning of each lab, they will behave appropriately.  And if they don't, drastic measures will have to be taken before that student can enter the lab again.

One goal that I have set for my blog, it to post a "Lab Safety Tip of the Week." To prepare for this series of blog posts, I did some online searching into lab accidents.  I was looking for up to date statistics about safety in middle and high school labs.  While I haven't yet found the stats I am looking for, I did come across this video.  It is posted by CSB: US Chemical Safety Board. The video is called, "After the Rainbow."  Without reading another word of this blog post, take 5 minutes to watch this video.

Did you watch it?  If that doesn't make you stop and consider your lab safety instruction, nothing will.

Back to the Lab Safety Tip of the Week.  Here is my first lab safety tip.

Before students walk in the door, have a plan.  The first few days of your class must include the following:

  • Students must get written copies of your lab safety rules.
  • You must go over each and every rule.
  • Take the students to the lab and point out all of the lab safety features:  Eyewash, safety shower, fire extinguisher, fire blanket, etc.
  • Students must sign a lab safety contract.  Parents must sign it too!
  • Students and parents must fill out a medical emergency form.
  • Students must take and pass a lab safety quiz.
Make sure that you know what you are going to do in case of an emergency. Talk to your school admin to make sure that all parties agree on a plan of action.  

Lab Safety Tip of the Week #1:  Develop and implement a lab safety plan.

Looking for a place to start?  These resources are posted in my TpT store:

Chemistry Chat: A First Day of School Science Lab Icebreaker

Click image to view product
I always try to do something different on the first day of school.  When the students go home at the end of the first day, I want to be the teacher the kids go home and talk about. Last school year, I developed an activity called "Science Chat" for my biology students.  It was a huge success, and I plan on using it again this year.  A few days ago, I polished it up and posted it to my store.

Nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming response this product has received!  I have had a mountain of messages asking if I had a similar product for chemistry and physical science students.  In response, I have developed "Chemistry Chat."

Now, before speaking any more about Chemistry Chat, let me suggest that you read my previous blog post on Science Chat.  The details of the activity - the purpose, how it works, what the students are doing - are all included in the previous blog post.  Some of you have already read that post, and I don't want to bore you by repeating myself.

The gist of the activity is that students will rotate through 10 different lab stations designed for physical science and chemistry students.  At each station, the students will be completing a science task, but just as important, the students will have to answer icebreaker questions in order to get to know their classmates.

What topics are covered  at each lab station?
Station 1:  Chemical and Physical Properties
Station 2:  Graphing
Station 3:  Metals and Nonmetals
Station 4:  Periodic Table
Station 5:  Lab Equipment
Station 6:  Laboratory Safety
Station 7:  Making Observations,  Forming a Hypothesis
Station 8:  Metric Scavenger Hunt
Station 9:  Chemistry Prefixes and Suffixes
Station 10:  Chemical Symbols

These photos will give you a better idea of what is involved in the activity:

In my neck of the woods, schools are back in session next week.  Others of you have until after Labor Day.  Whenever you return, I hope that you have a fantastic school year.