A science lab is an engaging place, an area in which students can learn actively by getting hands-on in performing experiments. However, as you know, lab experiments can frequently be dangerous, especially if you’re not adequately protected.
When children are involved, any sort of danger seems to increase in risk almost exponentially, so it is vital that they are taught how to remain safe whilst working in a lab environment.
Take the students on an informative tour of the classroom lab and make sure they all know exactly where all the emergency gear is located. Ensure they know all about the first aid kits, fire extinguishers and the eye-wash station, as well as the emergency shower if there is one.
Drill it into them than running is not to occur within the lab walls unless there is a real emergency going on; better to be safe than sorry!
Show the pupils all of the safety equipment that they’ll be wearing throughout any lab-based lessons – lab coats, goggles, gloves: the works! Treat them maturely, like they’re adults, and they are much more likely to take this little lesson seriously. Take each item in turn and explain exactly why it is imperative to their safety.
If you want to add a bit of extra gravitas, go into detail about specific dangers – abrasive chemicals, flammable materials and so on. Give someone increased responsibilities whilst ensuring all the kids are wearing their equipment by appointing someone as the Official Goggle Monitor.
Make Some Posters
Partly because it’s a creative distraction from their usual lessons, children love spending time making educational posters. Spend a lesson with the kids making a wide variety of different posters and hang these on the walls – the kids will be proud at seeing their hard work being displayed, and they’ll act as a permanent reminder of the rules of the lab.
Assign different groups different tasks: one lot can be tasked with documenting the different hazard symbols, one can detail the different lab furniture and so on.
Make a Show
Perform a simple (but dramatic!) experiment at the front of the class, something that will enthral the kids while also making them well aware of the risks of such experimentation. One such experiment is adding water to burning magnesium – the flames are so intense that it’s breath-taking, but it would be hard to argue that they would be harmless under different circumstances!
Make sure that you explain all the safety procedures you are following as you go along, and make it clear what could go wrong at each stage if you weren’t playing by the rules. The danger and the impressiveness will make sure it lodges in the kids’ brains – maybe do it on a Monday morning to really wake them up!