The argument really has 3 parts.
1. Training. If the demonstrators are properly trained, they should be able to do demos with hazardous chemicals. I think on a moments reflection, most of us will see that the level of safety training in most colleges and university chemistry programs is sadly lacking. So we have to assume that many, if not most, chemistry teachers today are not fully trained in safety.
2. Classroom facilities. The small crowded classrooms today don't allow for the distance from the demo that would enhance safety. A teacher I discussed previously on this forum, Aaron J. Ihde, did phenomenal demonstrations regularly. The lecture room held about 150 students, was in the raked auditorium style, and no student was closer than 8 feet from that front desk where the demos occurred.
All on one level classrooms with students crowding in to get a better view is not where demos should occur. All this touchy-feely education stuff doesn't work here.
3. Technical Support. Dr. Ihde also had a brilliant assistant, an employee who did the technical work for many professors for years and was highly experienced in providing the demo chemicals and set ups. Each "trick" was loaded and as ready for action as the gimmick would be for any class A stage magician. I know, because I was a magician's assistant for many years before entering the university.
Our teachers today are one-man bands. They have little or no support in the classroom.
I think we probably have to ban chemicals and processes until and unless there are fundamental changes in the level of teacher education, the space and safety features in classrooms and the technical support for teachers of chemistry.
Monona Rossol, M.S., M.F.A., Industrial Hygienist
President: Arts, Crafts & Theater Safety, Inc.
Safety Officer: Local USA829, IATSE
181 Thompson St., #23
New York, NY 10012 212-777-0062
From: DAVID Katz <dakatz45**At_Symbol_Here**MSN.COM>
To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Sent: Mon, Nov 2, 2015 5:09 am
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemistry classroom fire injures 6
I would be
opposed to any ban of methanol, in the classroom and for any chemical
demonstrations. As pointed out, by
others, the problem is not methanol, but lack of proper training for
1980 's and early 1990 's, there were demonstration programs for teachers through
ICE, Hope College, and Dreyfus. We
taught safety along with demonstrations and proper techniques.
Unfortunately, there are no national programs that teach demonstrations
at the present time and teaching proper
demonstrations techniques is not part of a college
many teachers get their demonstrations from conferences such as ChemEd, BCCE,
ICCE, and NSTA. While most
demonstrators, are responsible and observe safety, some do not.
There are a lot of less responsible demonstrators on YouTube.
When directions for these demos are distributed, they may address
chemical safety, but do not address safety in setting up and performing these
CHED, Flinn Scientific, and CCS has a list of safety guidelines, they do not
address many of the safe practices necessary for demonstrations.
Only Flinn has produced some safety videos for
going into a long dissertation, here, one of the most important practices is
proper preparation using premeasured quantities of materials in small containers
rather than pouring reagents, such as methanol, from large containers.
Should the demonstration not work, or end prematurely, the demonstrator must
insure that there is no active heat, flames or reaction, then move it out of the
way and start over with fresh materials and apparatus.
Trying to prolong a demonstration is, as we have observed from these
accidents, a prescription for disaster.
opinion, probably the best organization to address safety practices is Jim
Kaufman 's Laboratory Safety Institute.
In addition to his regular instructors, Jim employs a number of high
school teachers and demonstrators.
He gives workshops at many schools and teacher conferences which would
reach the intended audiences.
Chemist, Educator, Expert Demonstrator, Science Communicator,
Programs and workshops for teachers, schools,
museums, and the public
133 N. Desert Stream Dr. * Tucson, AZ
85745-2277 * USA
voice/fax: (520) 624-2207 * email: dakatz45**At_Symbol_Here**msn.com
Visit my web site: http://www.chymist.com
Original Message -----
Sunday, November 1, 2015 6:47 AM
Re: [DCHAS-L] Chemistry classroom fire injures 6
Our job is to call
attention provide a safe alternative for this one, and state that science
teachers need more sound education in the sciences and how to do demos; let's
stay away from policy issues - banning MeOH or anything else. ACS/CCS
has a list of chemicals strongly suggested do not belong in the
I'm already rolling on that. I started work last
night to get a group of people together who would be the go-to folks for the
segment to comment on camera, outline the issue/history of it, etc.
Basically prepackaging all the background footwork done that someone would
need to do *exactly* that. I possibly have a media contact or two
through some other channels. Anyone who wants to help compile the
case histories etc. should contact me off list.
It is quite clear that we can't solve the issue our
normal way - it is going to take some media attention so that administrators
and parents push it. A limited email I sent out last night for initial
feelers was titled "Let's get to the end of this rainbow once and for all".
It makes a great story; I can imagine the tag lines now
"invisible danger in the classroom", "your child at risk"
The only question is the scope/scale. We obviously
need to address all methanol/flame demos, but do we move beyond what has
already been called for and go for an outright ban on using methanol
While training is helpful the real need is getting the
information about the hazard to the teachers and administrators.
Apparently some instructors don't know there is a
My suggestion is for the ACS and teacher organizations
to jointly contact local and national news media to have a segment on the
dangers of some of these demonstrations and how to perform them
safely. That should get parent and school administrators
attention. This would make a nice PBS Frontline or 60 Minutes
The Chemical Safety Board makes outstanding videos and
excellent reports but their reach appears limited.
continues to beg for training for
just showed the CSB video to our preteachers this
10/30/2015 4:00 PM, Harry J. Elston wrote:
Head Here ---> (Rainbow Experiment)
was demonstrating the experiment ... with the different elements causing
the fire to change color, and as the fire was dying down she added more
this one couldn't wait for Monday's headlines:
are in serious condition (presumably with burns). No chemistry
details yet. I think we all have a good guess at what was involved
based on unfortunate past experiences, but let's sit tight until there is
Emporium - Lab & Safety Supplies featuring brand
willing, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful.
We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now
qualified to do everything with nothing. Teresa
Samuella B. Sigmann, NRCC-CHO
Senior Lecturer/Safety Committee Chair/Director of
A. R. Smith Department of
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