Lab Safety in the Science Classroom: Using Good Lab Practices

The science classroom can be a magical place for students.  They will uncover the world around them with hands-on science laboratories.  Things may bubble, change colors, or move in amazing ways.

The science classroom can also be an overwhelming place for teachers and students.  

Teachers need to get supplies for the activities.  They need to organize it so the students achieve the correct results.  Budgets are tight and supplies are limited.  This means group cooperation.  

Students need to follow safety precautions as well.  Every science teacher has had that lab that just didn't go right or that one group that argued the whole time.  Several groups may have gotten the wrong results and now you are re-teaching the concept.  It happens, it is science.  

We need to find a classroom management strategy that helps to improve the lab experience.  

How can we create a better experience?

My husband is a toxicologist.  Yes, two science geeks in the house.  He works in clinical labs testing the safety of materials.  Consistent data is a must and procedures must be followed.  Most experiments are for approval from the FDA or EPA. He would always talk about how a lab was a GLP Lab(Good Lab Practices).  He would mention that he was the study director or that the QA was coming over to check on things.  I started wondering what are these group roles and would they work in the science classroom.  What exactly is GLP? 

Assigning group roles really helps experiments go more smoothly.

I use to use roles like Recorder, Gopher(goes for this and goes for that), Measurer, etc.  I wondered if things would go smoother if I had GLP in my class.  It would be more like a true lab.  Since GLP stands for Good Lab Practices I thought that would make a lot of sense to my students.  So I integrated Good Lab Practices in with science safety and cooperative groups.  

Now I don't say. "Follow the safety rules." I say to students "Are you using Good Lab Practices?" 

Students take on the roles of Study Director, Quality Assurance, etc.  The labs go more smoothly, data is more consistent, and clean-up is better.  The terms help them learn about a true lab.  It is great to integrate with STEM lessons too.  Students take the labs more seriously and it is lots of fun.  Our class discussions are much more in-depth.

It doesn't necessarily make my classroom quiet.  I find science classrooms are never quiet.  Students need to be able to discuss what is going on and they do get excited.  That doesn't bother me as long as they are following good lab practices.

Make sure you take the time to have students assess how they did in the group.  A group report card is perfect.  This allows them to reflect on what they did well and what they need improvement on.  Learning to work in teams takes practice.

Everything you need to teach your students is available in this download.  It is EASY PREP.  You can get more creative with your bulletin board and role cards by adding colorful paper and laminating.  We also include reward tickets.  Just pick fun prizes to go with them.  

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