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Brian's Class Materials- FALL 2010 - SEYS 362

SEYS 362 Home

Queens College/CUNY
Education Unit
Fall 2010

Standard 9:  Safety and Welfare


Teachers of science organize safe and effective learning environments that promote the success of students and the welfare of all living things.  They require and promote knowledge and respect for safety, and oversee the welfare of all living things used in the classroom or found in the field.  To show that they are prepared, teachers of science must demonstrate that they:

  1. Understand the legal and ethical responsibilities of science teachers for the welfare of their students, the proper treatment of animals, and the maintenance and disposal of materials.
  2. Know and practice safe and proper techniques for the preparation, storage, dispensing, supervision, and disposal of all materials used in science instruction.
  3. Know and follow emergency procedures, maintain safety equipment, and ensure safety procedures appropriate for the activities and the abilities of students.
  4. Treat all living organisms used in the classroom or found in the field in a safe, humane, and ethical manner and respect legal restrictions on their collection, keeping, and use.




The National Standards for Science Education (NRC, 1996) identify the dimensions of the learning environment as providing (a) time for extended investigations; (b) a flexible and supportive setting for inquiry; (c) a safe working environment; (d) sufficient resources, including tools, materials, media and technological resources; (e) resources outside school; and (f) engagement of students. Some of these factors have been dealt with in other standards and will not be repeated here.

Safety and liability are especially of concern to science teachers, given the variety of environments in which they may teach and the materials they may use. Nagel (1982) recommended that safety education should be a condition of certification.  Flinn Scientific Inc. (1992) has developed a generic chemical hygiene plan for high school laboratories covering many procedural issues. Guidelines and recommendations are also available from the American Chemical Society for chemistry laboratories (American Chemical Society, 1995). Yohe and Dunkleberger (1992) have suggested an inservice format for teaching safety that is applicable to all teachers of science.

In the same vein, teachers should also be aware of the legal issues related to liability for their actions. Purvis, Leonard and Boulter (1982) have delineated the conditions of negligence and liability and related them to school science in the important areas of lab security, appropriate facilities, proper instruction and protective gear. Because science teachers are particularly likely to encounter injuries among their students, they should thoroughly understand the criteria for liability and negligence, and defenses against negligence. By being aware of their responsibilities, they can act to ensure the wellbeing of the students under their care.

Weld (1990) discusses the need to provide an accessible and safe environment for all science students, including those with special needs. Teachers must demonstrate awareness of the impact of special needs on potentially difficult activities such as field trips. They should also be aware of steps they can potentially take to meet the needs of all learners, from customizing equipment to adapting lessons to using cooperative learning approaches.

Teachers should be aware of issues related to the keeping of animals in the classroom. The U.S. Humane Society recommends stringent controls on the keeping and handling of animals in the classroom (Carin, 1997).  The National Association of Biology Teachers does not recommend such restrictions, but does recommend careful attention to the humane care and use of animals, awareness of dangers, and the use of alternatives to dissection when they are available (National Association of Biology Teachers, 1990).  Plants may also be hazardous, both in and outside of the classroom (Riechard, 1993).


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Applications in Programs


Teacher preparation programs must ensure that candidates possess the knowledge needed to maintain a safe environment for all students.  This includes knowledge of how to avoid or control hazardous materials or organisms, how to prepare and/or store materials properly, and how to clean up spills and dispose of chemicals safely. 

Candidates must know how to check and use safety equipment properly and the hazards of improperly shielded equipment, and must be able to avoid risks from fire hazards and biological contaminants.

It is also important that candidates actually behave in a safe manner, model ethical and safe behavior, and ensure that students behave safely at all times.  They must give proper safety instruction and causations, and must label materials and equipment in such a way as to maintain safety.

              In addition to safety concerns, candidates who may keep or use animals in the classroom or field should be knowledgeable of their care.  They should know and comply with laws and professional standards for classroom treatment of animals and should be aware of regulations controlling the use of sentient, usually vertebrate, animals.  They should be able to properly maintain the environment of the animals and dispose of wastes, respond to the illness of the animals and ensure that they have the food, water, space, shelter and care needed for their well-being.

Where candidates may use viruses, microorganisms, or other living things potentially harmful to students, candidates should know how to clean up the classroom and dispose of materials in order to maintain safety for students and anyone who may encounter such materials.  Chemical hazards or biohazards must be dealt with according to rules and regulations that apply to all laboratories.

Candidates should know and respect restrictions on collecting and using plants and animals, or parts of plants and animals, from the wild.  They should be aware of the potential hazards of common plants as well as animals.

Finally, they should know the common emergency precautions, responses, and reporting procedures that they are to follow in the event problems arise. 

              Both knowledge and behaviors are essential components in demonstrating that this standard is met.  Safety readings, tests, artifacts, projects, classroom safety evaluations, and so forth may be used to demonstrate knowledge and attention to safety matters.  Reviews of regulations related to the collection and use of living things and general guidelines for safety and use of living things may also contribute to evidence of preparation.  Actual performance in the classroom might be demonstrated by completion of a safety and ethical behaviors rubric or checklist by cooperating teachers.