HI all- I have really enjoyed everyone's thoughts and comments. Many have made great points! Thank you for those who have followed up with the video makers, those that show it, etc.! After being shocked by the video and going through the "…what were you thinking…" and the "…we need to punish him;;;" thoughts, it got me thinking. What was it that got me interested in science in the first place? For me it was my grandfather, who was a superb gardener, and it was his fruit tree that he had grafted 4 kinds of fruit on that amazed me and triggered wanted to learn more. Ok, then what got me to be continually interested in science to study it, work at it in research and support it in my safety career? It was the "Mr. Wizard" "oh and ah" demos that folks did. We can all probably remember those and those teachers or demos at school or the mall or state fair or wherever. In Physics it was the dropping of the ball and the wave tanks that were memorable, not the hours spent doing the calculations and write-ups. In Chemistry, is was the hands on stuff like making something change color or fizz or form a precipitate, not the equation balancing. In Botany, I am still amazed and at wonder at how the vegetation changes as you walk up a mountain trail or drive up the road to the top.
So given the above- for me anyways- I can see why any teacher wants to do these "spectacular" demos get kids excited, teach a concept and maybe secondarily, to be remembered if they need an ego stroking. I use the same principal when I do safety training (without the demos) to get folks interested and to make them think. The slides of what a Chemical Hygiene Plan is get little arousal, but the ones with photos from accidents, spills, etc. do wake the kids up, open their eyes and are the start of some very interesting discussions.
Watching the kids get excited about a scientific concert makes me excited (just judge at science fairs and you'll walk away smiling and amazed). I hope that was this teacher's intention. I think we can also scream that with this video, he didn't think it through with the "what if" and hazard analysis, etc. But if you are like me- you may have thought "…WOW, interesting concept, but not cool to do it in a class room and under the kids chairs…so where can they do this and how can we do this safely?" We need these demos to make folks excited and interested, but they need to be done safely in controlled manners. We also need to drive home the point that they are dangerous and should not be done by others without training, hazard analysis, proper ppe, etc. I am not defending him, but can see why he may have wanted to do a spectacular demo.
I agree with Eddie below on all points except the "entertainment". Yes that is what the video is, but what happened afterwards may be science education: did they do a scientific analysis on what burned and why… I don't agree with the how it was done, but it would be an interesting concept for the kids to work through.
Ok- so now what? It's easy to say what we learned not to do. What did we take form this, and every other topic we discuss? For me- it confirmed I need to follow-up with a long running discussion and mini-project that hasn't gotten too far off the ground. I will be contacting our College of Education Science Director to see about getting time in classes to talk about safety, the teacher's responsibilities, ramifications, etc. We will always have these "WOW" demos, And in some cases, I would be on the "we will need them" side. They do serve a purpose. Our goal as safety professionals and experts is to ensure those doing them understand the whole scenario about what they want or intend to do- what they are doing, why, where, their explanations about it and for our focus safety.
Again thanks to all for your thoughts! What are our ideas to carry this forward? Let us know so we can learn from you and your ideas!
Coordinator for Clinical and Laboratory Safety Programs
Environmental Health and Safety
University of Florida
POB 112190 Bldg 179 Newell Dr.
Gainesville, Fl 32611-2190
"Just because you are in compliance doesn't mean you are out of danger." Mike Rowe "Deadliest Catch"
Besides the obvious disregard for personal safety (I can't figure out if the teacher is wearing goggles or a pair of glasses—regardless, if they are goggles, they are the wrong kind), the message here seems to be that science education is all about dazzling our students and putting on a show. Even if this demonstration was appropriate for a K-12 setting, and was done with appropriate safety procedures in place, my first question to the teacher would be, "what is the learning objective, and how would you measure that objective?"
We've established that this demo is not safe. However, it isn't science either. It's entertainment. One of the struggles the science education community deals with from all sides is the need to include safety education in with science education. I tell my teachers that their lesson plans should always include a comment about how safety is ensured. The trouble is, principals don't see the need for this, students definitely don't see the need for this, sometimes vendors of science materials don't see the need for this (although vendors are usually much more in tune with the safety message). And teachers really believe if it worked 100 times before, it will always work.
I know everybody is perpetually busy, but if you have the ability and the time, I encourage you to visit a local school, and let the students, teachers, and administration know
1) What science is all about in the "real world." In many cases, it's not what they think, and
2) Safer practice is not just a good idea or a poster slogan. It is a culture, and if it's not nurtured, tragedywill strike sooner or later.
Edward J. McGrath
Supervisor of Science
Red Clay Consolidated School District
1502 Spruce Avenue
Wilmington DE 19805
We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrowed it from our children.
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