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Figure 1. A still image from the RAMP for Students video, available in the AACT Multimedia Library.

With the new school year approaching (or already underway for some teachers), it’s time to take a look at lab safety to refresh our students (and ourselves) on safe practices.

You may already be planning a safety lesson in which you highlight important safety rules and demonstrate emergency equipment. Or maybe your district is entirely online, and you’re preparing students to do “kitchen chemistry” experiments at home! In either case, I’d like to encourage you to include safety instruction in your lesson planning throughout the school year to reinforce these vital concepts.

In this article, I’d like to highlight some valuable safety videos and resources that will help you to include safety information in all areas of your lesson planning. Following the 5E model of lesson planning, I’d like to give suggestions on how you can implement safety instruction and exploration, no matter where it happens to fit in your lesson plan.

The 5E lesson planning model is commonly used in science lesson planning, and involves five parts: Engage, Explore, Explain, Extend/Elaborate, and Evaluate. It is designed to create maximum engagement of all students throughout a lesson, and serves as a great way to organize lab safety resources. To give just one example, you can choose to integrate small amounts of lab safety instruction and assessment throughout the semester instead of front-loading safety at the beginning of the course. I’d also like to give you some ideas for creating lab safety stations using the videos and various AACT resources.

Lab Safety Videos

Thanks to a generous gift, ACS has written and produced six lab safety videos! Five of the videos are intended to use as in-class resources with your students, and one is aimed toward teachers, providing a “how-to” guide on setting up a safe lab. Each video runs around five minutes in length, and there are additional classroom resources available to support you and your students in using them.

I have developed a 5E lesson plan for use with Video 5: RAMP for Students. Teachers can use this video to teach students a simple yet powerful tool for protecting themselves and their classmates in the lab. The tool is called RAMP, which stands for: Recognize hazards; Assess risks; Minimize risks and Prepare for emergencies. Keep in mind that there is also a teacher version of this video (Video 6: RAMP for Teachers), which covers the steps that you can take to make sure your students are as safe as possible while exploring and experimenting in the lab. This could be an especially valuable tool for teachers who are teaching remotely, in order to design instructional activities and prepare students for safely carrying out labs in an eLearning environment. However, be sure to defer to your local district’s policies and guidelines regarding science lab activities at home during this unprecedented time.

Overview: RAMP 5E Lesson

  • Engage
    • An anticipation guide allows your students to gauge their safety knowledge, including what RAMP stands for, differentiating between the terms hazard and risk, as well as general knowledge of personal protective equipment (PPE). This is great to use before and after students view the video to help correct misconceptions.
  • Explore
    • A Hazard versus Risk sorting activity is a great way for students to test their ability to differentiate between common lab hazards and risks. This can also be used before and after the video to allow students time to think about the information on their own and make meaning of these distinct terms.
  • Explain
    • During this portion of the lesson plan, teachers should show the video to explain the RAMP concepts to students. During the video, students can record information in a set of fill-in notes or using a foldable to help them retain the new knowledge.
  • Extend/Elaborate
    • A Globally Harmonized System for Hazard Communication (GHS) pictogram matching activity is a good way for students to apply what they’ve learned about the pictograms and also research a few more that are not covered in the video.
    • Students use a four-quadrant activity as they complete a risk assessment of several scenarios. This helps students to gauge the risks associated with common lab chemicals and activities.
    • Brief case studies to evaluate hazards/risks would be an excellent classroom discussion after the video to ask students to apply what they’ve learned to specific instances requiring safety analysis.
    • A last option for this section is for students to become more familiar with their laboratory environment by sketching their lab and identifying the locations of safety equipment.
  • Evaluate
    • Students can apply their understanding through the creative design of a RAMP poster.
    • Finally, students are presented with a lab scenario, and use a standard RAMP template from ACS to evaluate the hazards and risks associated with it.

Alternate Activity: Lab Safety Stations

Teachers may also wish to use these videos simultaneously, and in conjunction with other safety resources that AACT offers. This could be accomplished effectively by setting up five video stations using laptops or devices to show each of the five student videos and provide a supplementary activity for each.

Station 1: Safety Mindset Video Activity: Students could write a mission statement, make a poster/handout, or create a short podcast or video that discusses everyone’s roles in lab safety (like an advertisement for safety)
Station 2: Safety Data Sheet Video Activity: Students could read a sample SDS and highlight areas of potential risk

A good example is Lab Safety and Safety Data Sheets
Station 3: How to Dress Video Activity: Students could read instructions for a lab and determine which items of PPE are most appropriate
Station 4: Preparing for Emergencies Video Activity: Students could read case studies on common lab mishaps and determine how to prepare for similar emergencies in the lab

Several great examples of this are available in the AACT library, such as, Lab Safety: You’re Fired! and Chemical Disasters: Good Chemicals Gone Bad
Station 5: RAMP for Students Video Activity: Using the RAMP template, students could read lab materials and procedures and fill in the four areas of RAMP (Recognize hazards, Assess risks, Minimize risks, Prepare for emergencies)

Using additional materials from the AACT website, you could create a shorter series of lab safety stations for practice or, if you have less time, for review. For example:

In conclusion, lab safety instruction shouldn’t be a one-time show. By using “safety snippets” throughout the school year, you can help reinforce a safety mindset in your students and ultimately create a safer laboratory experience for you and for your students.

Photo credit:
(article cover) ACS Chemical Safety/American Chemical Society