Date: Sat, 9 Oct 2010 12:03:44 -0400
Reply-To: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
Sender: DCHAS-L Discussion List <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU>
From: McGrath Edward J <Edward.McGrath**At_Symbol_Here**REDCLAY.K12.DE.US>
Subject: Re: Science Education & Safety

Actually, if you don't mind, I'd like to stir that pot myself.
OUr K-12 school district promotes a "culture of safety" regarding 
science curriculum and instruction.  The idea is that we live in a world 
of risk, and creating an experience that is entirely without risk is 
simply not true science.  Our curriculum must include ways to handle 
toxins, corrosives, and flammables.  Therefore, our curriculum includes 
PPE, access to safety equipment, responsibly safe practice, and what to 
do when ...situation occurs.
Having said this, the procedures and materials used in this culture of 
safety must keep the following in mind:  we are a K-12 school district, 
not a university nor an industrial setting.  Furthermore, although some 
element of risk is involved with secondary science, there are some 
procedures and materials that should not be in our schools, even though 
they were in our schools as recently as five or ten years ago.  
Certainly we can demonstrate oxidation reactions with potassium chlorate 
and candy (for example).  However, we have to store these in the same 
school where they are used, and although the chemical storeroom has 
limited access (chemistry teachers and the principal), what are the 
consequences if a break-in should occur?  Read some of the chemical 
safety headlines that Ralph Stuart posts--accidents involving schools 
make us shake our heads and say, "how in the world could that have 
happened?"  I'd be willing to bet that the schools where this sort of 
thing occurs are full of teachers and administrators that shake their 
heads at headlines like this...until it happens to them.
My point is (I apologize for rambling a bit), is that in academia, risk 
analysis and safe practice with hazardous situations is part of a 
quality curriculum.  We have a responsibility to scrutinize those 
activities with associated risk and ask the following questions:
1)  How is this activity promoting learning in our students?
2)  How are we actively protecting our students, our community, and 
ourselves from the risks involved?
Therefore, finding a safe alternative to an otherwise excessively risky 
procedure isn't just safe practice, it's also good pedagogy.  Likewise, 
removing all risk from the science curriculum deprives the students of 
an important piece of laboratory practice--safety.
Edward J. McGrath
Science Supervisor
Red Clay Consolidated School District


From: DCHAS-L Discussion List on behalf of Norwood, Brad
Sent: Sat 10/9/2010 8:00 AM
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Science Education & Safety

While I agree (mainly) in principle with Ernest, there are some things 
that really should come off of the list.  An obvious example (and I'm 
being extreme here, not intending to imply Ernest wouldn't agree) is 
benzene.  I'm sure we'd all agree that this is a solvent that simply 
should not be used under any circumstances.


But Ernest's point is spot-on.  If all we do is 'dumb down' the content 
of labs and remove all possible hint of danger, we exacerbate the 
problem of a society full of chemophobic individuals who simply do not 
know how to handle any chemical, much less make a rational decision as 
to whether a given situation is really a problem or not.  Heck, if this 
is going to be our response (i.e. let's remove all danger from the lab), 
we might as well discontinue 'real' labs and just do the whole thing as 
an online & virtual experience.  Take a video of the experiment and let 
the kiddies watch it.


I think we do our students (and, ultimately, society itself) a 
disservice when we immediately presume that we must be the 
nanny-protector from all harm.  The real world does not operate this way 
(ambulance-chasing, TV ad-trolling trial lawyers notwithstanding).  Far 
better to teach them what the real issues are and how to think 
critically through a situation to assess it, and to actually perform, 
hands-on, real chemical reactions with real chemicals and reagents - 
some of which can harm them - to demonstrate that, with proper handling, 
care and understanding, chemicals can and do perform wonderful things 
for us.


I'll get off my soapbox now.






Dr. Bradley K. Norwood

Laboratory Director

Arista Laboratories

1941 Reymet Road

Richmond, VA  23237

(804) 271-5572 ext. 307

(804) 641-4641 (cell)




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From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**] On Behalf Of 
Ernest Lippert
Sent: Friday, October 08, 2010 11:51 PM
To: DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Science Education & Safety


I guess I am "Old School" but it is hardly possible to teach (or 
practice) chemistry without some exposure to more or less dangerous 
chemicals. What needs to be taught is how to handle chemicals safely, 
not how to handle only safe chemicals. We must be careful not to 
occupationally regulate ourselves out of existence.


Ernest Lippert

On Fri, Oct 8, 2010 at 3:51 PM, Russell Vernon  

I found out today that one of our teaching labs is conducted an 
extraction experiment with dichloromethane (caffeine from coffee)

I would like to provide them a reasonable alternative extraction 
experiment with an occupationally regulated carcinogen...


If you have a recommendation to look at, would you please contact me?




Russell Vernon, Ph.D.

Research Safety

Environmental Health & Safety

University of California, Riverside

900 University Ave

Riverside, CA 92521  



Direct (951) 827-5119

Admin (951) 827-5528

Fax (951) 827-5122



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