From: "Wilhelm, Monique" <mwilhelm**At_Symbol_Here**UMFLINT.EDU>
Subject: FW: [DCHAS-L] [DCHAS-L] Teacher Makes Chemistry Fun With Exploding Experiments
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2017 12:20:34 +0000
Reply-To: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU>
Message-ID: 1109037139E1524980CF9CBEB2476618010B023E68**At_Symbol_Here**



I have personally seen that the most effective way to get the people I have worked with interested in science is by targeting them in 4-8th grade AND using hands-on or visual (demos) activities that make them think "how does that happen?" and then explaining how.  You don't just have them make slime using one formula, you have them make the best slime by determining what each ingredient contributes to the formula and/or what proportions make the best slime while having them act out what a polymer is by making polystudents.  To keep our professions (especially chemistry) alive into the future, we have to STOP doing things that reinforce the common misconception that chemistry and "chemicals" are bad things.  You wouldn't believe how many freshman have thanked me for my approach to teaching gen chem lab (with demos almost every week) because they were afraid of the class in the beginning, due to what they had seen "chemists" do in demo shows and even high school classes,  and they finally realized it could be safe if you understand and respect the hazards and work to minimize the risk.  Yes, I do now teach even my freshman the concept of risk because I have to undo the damage of what they have seen before getting to me.


Do I do all of the demos that were shown in this video: YES.  But, not for young students and not without spending as much or more time talking about the safety than I do the demo and warning them about what they are about to see.


These things that many people think excite the students scare just as many away.  It is just that you can hear the excitement while the fear is kept inside and is ignored by those doing the activities.  I think demos and hands-on activities for all students is very important to continue the curiosity that we are all born with and keep them interested in the sciences.  So much so, that I offer K-12 teachers in my area a free workshop that shows them easy and safe activities they can do and explains those concepts that pertain to the various grade levels and I provide all of the activities for them to take back to their classroom.  Many teachers are even afraid to do science demos and activities for their students (especially non-high school teachers) because they think that they have to be hazardous to get attention.  Maybe I need to eventually get out to an NSTA meeting to do it there someday….




Monique (AKA "Madame Curious")


Monique Wilhelm, M.S., NRCC Certified CHO

ACS D-CHAS Secretary-Elect|2017 CERM E. Ann Nalley Award Recipient

Laboratory Manager|Adjunct Lecturer|Chemistry Club Advisor

Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry|University of Michigan-Flint






From: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU] On Behalf Of Christina Dillard
Sent: Thursday, October 19, 2017 1:40 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Teacher Makes Chemistry Fun With Exploding Experiments


Thank you all for your thoughtful perspective on this. This is exceptionally timely for me as I head to San Jose, CA this weekend for the  ASTC (Assoc of Science Technology Centers) Conference to co-present "Keep the Wow, Ditch the Ow! Keeping Informal Science Education Sensational and Safe". It is a fine balance in the Informal Science Education (ISE) arena to provide meaningful, thought provoking and inspiring science education that is entertaining and audience engaging while still modeling better safety practices.


I think we do a remarkably good job here at the Museum delivering science education that is not just theatrics, but there is always room for improvement. Keep your thoughts coming … I hope to share some of your thoughts when I present on Monday morning.


What are your expectations when you attend a "Show" at a Science Museum or Discovery Center?




Christina Dillard | Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Program Manager

Museum of Science  | Facilities Dept.  |  One  Science Park  |  Boston, MA 02114-1099

P 617-589-4249 | F 617-589-0101 |M 781-789-1178| cdillard**At_Symbol_Here**  |




From: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU] On Behalf Of Monona Rossol
Sent: Thursday, October 19, 2017 9:19 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Teacher Makes Chemistry Fun With Exploding Experiments


Thanks, Edward.  That's very clear and organized.  And to add to the "monkey see, monkey do" argument, teachers should watch some of the You Tube and TV videos of kids doing things that people think are funny, that kids post in hopes of going viral, and are often dangerous.


The TV producers that air these videos and the people who watch them or who view the You Tubes and "like" them, are complicit in pushing kids to take risks.  


The whole point of professional circus and movie stunt work is to make things look dangerous when they are really not.  There is science involved in assessing the risks and setting up the PPE and practicing a stunt or a magic illusion.  Instead, we have so lost our discipline and respect for ourselves in this quest for a minute's fame and adulation that we are almost suicidal.  


And I have seen that attitude spill over into the professional theatrical and film community as well, especially in the indies. 


I'm this morose because I will be training graduate technical theater students today in hazcom.  As usual, they will have never heard of any of it.  Yet they are the ones using the chemical products, calculating load-ratings and setting up special effects.  They also will bring no science backgrounds to this training, which makes retention limited.  


So if you want to know who else is complicit in this outrageous situation, it is the schools that do not have regular and intense OSHA training and basic science requirements for degrees in the arts.  And that is, unfortunately, most schools.  


Now I can get on with it.



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




-----Original Message-----
From: McGrath Edward J <
Sent: Thu, Oct 19, 2017 3:05 am
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Teacher Makes Chemistry Fun With Exploding Experiments


I've just come off a period where I didn't have much use of an actual computer, so I've been following this feed and the one about using a spray bottle for the rainbow demo on my phone.  I just saw the clip, and here are some reflections from K-12 education, where I spend most of my waking hours with children and their teachers.


First and foremost, I have NEVER met any reputable chemist who decided to study chemistry because of a show like this or for the purposes of "blowing stuff up."  This is, as Monona put it, theatrics, not science.  In terms of planning a science lesson, I tell teachers and administrators alike that the risk assessment begins with the lesson plan:  measureable learning objectives, a clear expectation of what students are to do, and assessment of student work.  Some science teachers are notorious for preparing "dog and pony show" science lessons for students or for observations.  If those elements of the lesson plan are not evident (i.e. if the lesson is confusing "student engagement" with "student entertainment") it's a pretty good guess that the lesson isn't very safe, either.


As for the concern, "they may want to try their own ‘experiments'," believe it!  We in education stress the importance of scientific reports being replicated.  A disclaimer of "kids, don't try this at home!" is a joke.  We have to be keenly aware of what our students are actually seeing.  I sometimes hear, "oh don't worry, I only do this with my honors classes!"  Guess what:  your Honors students have friends and siblings who hear about this "really exciting demo" and try to re-create it…in the basement.  Or the back yard.  And like it or not, if injury occurs, the teacher still can be ruled as negligent through proximate cause!


I think the science education community needs to do a much better job of including safer practice as an integral part of science, not as an afterthought (or even worse, an assumption).


Eddie McGrath


Edward J. McGrath

Supervisor of Science

Red Clay Consolidated School District

1502 Spruce Avenue

Wilmington, DE  19805


(302) 552-3768


We did not inherit the Earth from our parents.  We borrowed it from our children.


From: ACS Division of Chemical Health and Safety [mailto:DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**PRINCETON.EDU] On Behalf Of ILPI Support
Sent: Wednesday, October 18, 2017 1:20 PM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] Teacher Makes Chemistry Fun With Exploding Experiments


And they will be tempted to do similar "experiments" on their own.   

Monona Rossol, M.S., M.F.A., Industrial Hygienist


Bam, nailed it.


I did an outreach at an elementary school years back and I said "Hi, my name's Rob and I'm a chemist.  Does anyone know what a chemist does?"  Many hands went up, and the kid that answered said "Blows things up."


That is precisely what we don't want kids to answer.  Just like when I'm in a non-professional setting etc. and I say "Hi, my name's Rob and I'm a chemist" and I get the answer "Ooh, chemistry. I hated chemistry in high school/college."  More on THAT challenge another time.


As much as I love doing the classic explosion/fire demos, I would NEVER EVER do them with an elementary audience for the reason Monona stated.  You can do all sorts of great non-exploding/burning demonstrations at the elementary level that require students to pose hypotheses and then test them.  And the students will have fun AND learn.  From what I saw on the news report, we have a very enthusiastic and eager young scientist who believes that the former inspires the latter and has yet to grasp that they go hand-in-hand.


With a little mentorship, she could no doubt master that balance and achieve her stated goals much more effectively while simultaneously diminishing the probability of a copycat situation turning out wrong.


Rob Toreki



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