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Academic Year 2015-16

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Last update: Thursday, August 15, 2013 2:21 PM

Laboratory Learning Philosophy

The laboratory learning philosophy is based on cooperative learning. Students usually work in groups of two for most experiments, and are encouraged to work together on mastering the laboratory material in a cooperative manner. (Students engaged in cooperative learning are known to absorb material more deeply than students in a traditional setting.) Discussion among students while creating proposed laboratory experiments and procedures, while working in the laboratory, and while discussing the outcome from laboratory procedures is very much encouraged. The sharing of experiences contributes to a better understanding of the methods and chemical processes under study, and with data interpretation and reduction.

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Laboratory Handouts

The list of handouts is available on the class website, however, this list may grow over the course of the academic year. Always wait to print off a copy of the handout for each upcoming activity until instructed to do so, as changes to the handout text may be in progress. Any activity handouts that are not authored by teachers at Newton South will not be posted on the website will only be available from your teacher.

Laboratory Reports

Some form of written lab report is required at the conclusion of each experiment. In some cases, the report will consist of completing assigned report forms supplied on this website. One laboratory activity in each term may be required as a written scientific laboratory report. For more information, see the web page on writing scientific laboratory reports web page.

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Laboratory Safety

Laboratory Safety Agreement.

Laboratory Safety Agreements will be handed out in the first few weeks of class. All students and their legal guardians must read and return the signed Safety Agreement before engaging in laboratory experiments involving chemical reagents.

Working safely in the chemical laboratory

Safety is your number one priority in any chemical laboratory. It is everyone's responsibility to work safely in the laboratory environment. As you read through the information in this handout and in the safety agreement, remember that it is your actions, and not your memorization of rules, that will define your safety record while working in the laboratory.

Most laboratory safety involves common sense. Stuff like — don't touch hot items, no eating or drinking in the laboratory, and don't stick your fingers in the bunsen burner flame.... If you let your common sense guide you, you will probably avoid most safety hazards — you know, the self-preservation thing. None-the-less, safety in the laboratory cannot be left strictly to common sense. There are safety rules and regulations for working in the laboratory — most of which are city, county, and state laws — and these rules apply to everyone in the laboratory. Many of these rules are available in your copy of the Laboratory Safety Agreement you must sign before you are allowed to work in the laboratory. It is not sufficient that you simply read the agreement — you must understand it, and agree to abide by it!

Laboratory Safety Equipment

On you first visit to the laboratory, take the time to locate the two exits nearest to your work space. At the start of the first laboratory period, you must become familiar with the safety equipment in the laboratory. You need to know where to find and how to use the laboratory safety equipment including:

  • eye wash fountains
  • safety showers
  • fire blankets
  • fire extinguishers
  • chemical spill kits

The placement of and the use of the laboratory safety equipment will be discussed in the first days of term 1. Pay attention: knowledge of where to find, and how to use, the laboratory safety equipment could help prevent injury to yourself and/or others.

Personal Protection

  • No food or drink is allowed in the laboratory.
  • Approved safety eyewear must be worn at all times while in the laboratory. If you normally wear prescription glasses*, you must wear safety goggles over your glasses. No excuses. No exceptions.
  • Shoes are required. No open-toed shoes (such as sandals) are allowed.
  • Know the hazardous chemicals you expect to encounter. (See the links to MSDS sources on the Internet.)
*Please note that contacts lenses are not allowed in the laboratory. If you normally wear contacts, bring your prescription glasses along to wear for the lab period. You may wonder why contact lenses could be a problem. Not all hazards in the laboratory are liquids or solids — many gases are also hazardous. Gases are not stopped by safety glasses or goggles. Soluble gases, such as ammonia (very soluble), dramatically affect the pH balance of the delicate moisture coating on your eyes. Once the vapors dissolve, the protective moisture coating is compromised over the entire surface of the eye, including between the contact lens and the cornea. Your reflex action will be to squeeze your eye tightly shut, thereby rendering it impossible to remove the contact lenses so that the eye may be washed clean.

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Safety and Class Operations

Your teacher has absolute say over safety matters. You must comply — even if you don't see the necessity — or you will be ejected from class for the current experiment. If you are ejected from the class for a safety violation, you will receive a grade of zero for the current experiment.

Safety is also linked with environmental safety. There are very strict rules regarding disposal of waste materials. Since many of these rules are very new, pay careful attention in lab lecture, and watch the classroom whiteboard for current announcements. One Cardinal rule is: do not dump anything down the drain unless specifically instructed to do so. Appropriate disposal receptacles will be made available for chemical waste materials.

There are special containers for the disposal of broken glassware and disposable glass pipets. These containers are treated as containing hazardous waste, since the broken glass might be contaminated. They are very costly to have removed when full. Please, use these containers only for the disposal of glass — no paper towels! There are plenty of waste paper baskets available for the disposal of paper products.

A chemical laboratory contains many poisonous substances (so do most homes, for that matter). It is excellent practice to wash your hands regularly while working in the laboratory. Soap and paper towels are available. Always wash your hands after you have cleaned your work space and are ready to leave for the day.


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Copyright© 2005 – 2012, 2013 by Alan Crosby (adcrosby@nshs-science.org)
Newton South High School, Newton Centre, MA 02459
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