Teaching Lab Safety to Middle Schoolers
Last year about this time I was scrambling to figure out my brand new first week as a teacher. I decided to cover lab safety first because it was simple, necessary, and low-key for that first week.
I’ve been a member of NSTA for a few years and I’ve accumulated lots of discussion board e-mails, most of which I still haven’t read. But, I started there looking for ideas. I can’t give credit to whoever came up with this because I don’t have the e-mail anymore, but it’s fantastic! The idea is to create a sort of crime scene of a lab accident and allow students to evaluate it. Off I went to the dollar store to pick up supplies.
I bought a little teddy bear and decided he was the focus of my investigation. I also bought it a shirt and wig. At home I collected things out of my medicine cabinet like vitamin E pills and iodine. In addition, I brought in food coloring. I was trying to focus on all of the lab rules we were covering throughout the week. (We use Flinn’s Safety Contract.) I set up the scene, and re-covered it before each class. After the kids arrived, I told them a story that I had bad news- our friend Bob the Bear was found dead this morning in the lab. I don’t know what happened. I left the lab locked when I went home last night, and then this morning I found him. The students automatically come up with conspiracy theories involving the custodians.
I pass out clipboards with a sheet on it (What happened to Bob the Bear.pdf), and allow students to approach the uncovered scene to make observations (also practicing science skills). They are also asked to make three predictions as to what caused the death. It was so much fun, I’m doing it again this year!