As science teachers, we all know that safety is key. Students can’t learn in a chaotic classroom, especially with the hazards that some lab experiments create. Every student needs to understand and adhere to the rules of the science lab. Every parent or guardian needs to be aware of teacher expectations and consequences as well. So we recommend you spend at least one day going over lab procedures, rules and consequences, and the safety contract. Below is a list of five ways you can deliver clear lab expectations and maintain safety in the science classroom:
Every student should receive a hard copy of your procedures, rules, consequences and contract: Start class by handing out a printed lab safety sheet and contract to every student. Immediately have them glue it into their notebook. Now that it’s a permanent part of their science notebook or INB, students can’t claim they aren’t aware of your rules. Always have extra copies in the event that a child loses theirs (which would be difficult if it’s glued into their notebook) or if a new student is added to your class.
Review your expectations: Don’t gloss over lab safety. Review the sheet you just handed out in detail – discuss your expectations of student behavior so they understand they must assume responsibility for their own safety and for the safety of their classmates. As an added precaution, have your rules posted in high traffic areas in your classroom, especially around your lab stations.
Discuss mishaps: Once students are familiar with your rules, talk about what kinds of accidents may happen in the classroom. A great way to do this is with a mishap activity. Laminate your sheet and provide students with erasable markers OR display the picture on your interactive white board and have students come up to the board to show their sense of right and wrong in the lab. Students can put an “x” through the activities that are inappropriate for a lab setting and an “o” around those that are appropriate. Then, come together as a class and discuss WHY those behaviors are right and wrong and how those bad behaviors could be fixed.
Sign on the dotted line: Students must agree to your lab rules and consequences – to show they understand and agree, have them sign your contract. This binding agreement will keep students focused on appropriate behavior and it will give you a leg up during inappropriate incidences that occur so you can take proper disciplinary measures. There is no arguing your rules when they’re in writing and signed by the students. Take it to another level and have students bring this contract home to their guardians. This is a great way to get parents interacting with your rules and regulations so they are fully aware of what kind of behaviors will result in specific disciplinary actions. Have students return their signed contract as their first homework assignment and review your expectations once again as your warm-up activity. You could even assign an in class project that highlights lab safety rules with students creating cartoons, comic strips, and stories to show their understanding of your expectations.
For more ideas, please check out our Lab Safety: Rules of the Room Interactive Notebook Activity, Contract, Posters and PowerPoint. This lesson works perfectly as an introduction to the Scientific Method as you get the school year off to a great start!
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