ALL students can and should learn science by conducting laboratory investigations. The AAAS has even developed laboratory investigative activities for differently-abled students.
ALL students should learn to PROCEED with CAUTION.
Teach your students how to be responsible. Then, give your students the opportunity to be responsible.
Here are links to on-line resources for life science investigations in the high school classroom. Included are some excellent links to University level resources so you can see that undergraduate students also must comply with guidelines and regulations in order to conduct laboratory work for classes.
Before the lab, provide time and guidance for students to practice the safety precautions you expect them to follow during the lab.
Devise a fun creative activity so students can practice and remember. For instance, YOU can demonstrate the procedure using both good and bad practices and have each student remark on one good or bad practice.
1: No eating or drinking in the lab. This means no gum, cough drops, applying chapstick, chewing hair ends, holding a pencil in your mouth, nail-biting, etc.
Science Service hosts the web site of the International Science and Engineering Fair, sponsored by Intel. Note that their rules can regulate what happens in the classroom while leaving room for lots of investigative activity.
2: Handle everything as if it's pathogenic. Use good microbiological practice. Soil and water samples that students try to culture in class or for a science project should be handled with standard microbiological practice under adult supervision. Autoclave sterilize for 0.5 hr or flood with freshly prepared 10% bleach for 0.5 hr and rinse before disposing in the regular trash.
The National Center for Biotechnology Education in Great Britain is a clearinghouse for many biotechnology lab activities.
|3: Keep flame and flammable solutions far apart. Set up your classroom so that if a flame IS to be used, it is located far from the exit, so most students are closer to the exit. Have any open alcohol beakers far from the flame --- for instance on another workbench --- so some of the alcohol evaporates while the tool is brought to the flame.|
|4: Keep electrical equipment far from water. Keep areas around electrical equipment dry (aquaria excluded, of course!). Fun safety site.|
||5: Clean spills from the outside IN. Apply paper towels over the spill, then, carefully starting from the outside, wipe in.|
||6: Use proper safety protection --- fume hood, goggles, gloves. NOTE that latex allergies can develop!|
||7: Always clean glassware before you use it to be sure that residues are cleaned away. Add at least some water first, before adding any liquid or solid solutes.|
|8: Be careful weighing out chemicals and reagents. Do NOT return excess materials to the stock container. Learn vocabulary of chemical safety.|
||9: Check all waterbaths with a thermometer before putting your hand into the water.|
|10: All sharps (needles, razors, pins, toothpicks) should be discarded in a sturdy container. A coffee can with plastic lid works well. Cut a small slit in the lid and make a bright clear label for the can.|
|11: Science and writing go hand-in-hand ; have students keep a proper laboratory notebook or write Standard Operating Procedures.|
|14: Find good resources for school laboratory safety (Flinn Laboratory Safety Guide). Check out several different school laboratory safety resource guides. Here, too! And here and here.|
|15: Example School Lab Safety Contracts Appleton area, WI , Erie PA, Generic Contract from Carolina Biologicals, Council of State Science Supervisors, California examples.|
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