During my career, I’ve seen so many accidents during science labs that could have been prevented with explicit teaching….
- seemingly harmless horseplay resulting in broken glassware
- middle school students eating glue on a dare
- poking a metal rod into an outlet – zap!
- mercury spill from a thermometer that never should have even existed in our building — leave it to an eighth-grader to find the ONLY ONE….. cue the hazmat team….
Needless to say, I am a huge fan of explicitly teaching lab safety!
Teaching science lab safety is so much more than sending home the science safety contract for parents to sign. I know, most of the lab safety rules are common sense and it may seem like a waste of time, but I promise that breaking down the rules in the beginning of the year will pay dividends in the long run.
Science Lab Safety Contracts
Your district probably has a standard lab safety contract for you to use. We use the Flinn Student Safety Contract in our district for students in grades 6-8. The two-page document consists of fifty-five numbered safety instructions. There’s even a quiz to check for understanding.
In my opinion, the last three questions before the signature section are the most important.
- Do you wear contact lenses?
- Are you color blind?
- Do you have allergies?
While, I think the contract is extremely important to send home for parents and students to read through, let’s be honest. How many students actually read the contract in its entirety? Probably less than 5!
Now, I’ve seen teachers read through the entire document with the students. I’m not sure that middle school students have the attention span for that. While the lab safety rules are super important, it is not a riveting read!
That’s where explicit instruction comes in!
In my opinion, I really feel that students need to be explicitly taught the safety rules. For my classes, I made a presentation and fill in note set that highlight the most important of the science safety rules on the Flinn safety contract.
The presentation is a great way to discuss how these rules apply in your classroom or lab. At the same time, they can take notes on these important ideas.
Since I collect the safety contract that students and parents sign, this note page stays in their folder as a reminder of all of the safety procedures throughout the year.
As we go through the presentation, I use the “turn and talk” strategy throughout the lesson to break it up and keep students engaged and thinking.
Students answer questions like:
- Which rule do you think is the most important? Explain why.
- Explain to your neighbor what you would do if….
- Which rule do you think would be the hardest to follow? Explain why.
Student Made Safety Slogans
Another way I like to reinforce the science lab safety presentation is by having students make posters with safety slogans. Their mission is to create a poster of the safety rule that they think is the most important.
They always enjoy this creative activity. Plus, it is always a good way to add some color to the walls in your classroom with student projects in the beginning of the school year.
- Create a safety cartoon
- Record a safety video on Flip Grid
- Write a skit about science lab safety and perform it for the class
Science Lab Safety Performance Assessment
Last year, I set up stations in my science lab. Students were given a clipboard and paper and directed to explain which rules were being followed or broken.
Hint: Stuffed animals or Barbie dolls are a fun and easy way to represent people. I have also created video snippets for students to watch that give more detail about the scenario.
Safety Station Examples:
- Broken glass
- Eyewear not being properly worn
- Cutting toward you with a razor
Since lab safety is not a “one” and done thing, I like to keep the rules of lab safety visible in the classroom. Posters are a great way to brighten the science lab, classroom, or bulletin board and also provide a daily reminder of what is expected.
This set of 25 posters is aligned with the Flinn Safety rules and the presentation and notes for a consistent message.
This module based, interactive simulation is another way to reinforce safety in the science lab. This module has activities and quizzes embedded. Students are encouraged to participate in online activities such as dressing the model appropriately for lab and cleaning up the lab room to make it safe.
Zombie College Video
Students will completely eat up the Zombie College Video: 5 Rules of Lab Safety. The music video is pretty catchy too 🙂
Zombie College is ten minutes of overly-dramatic zombie action that your students are GUARANTEED to love! This just might bump you to the top of the coolest teacher list.
While we are watching the video, I have my students take out a sheet of paper and list the 5 Rules of Lab Safety from the video. This is great for a discussion afterwards. .
Are you looking for resources for back to school? Check out this blog post “5 First Week of School Activities to Build Lasting Relationships.”