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Ensuring Safe Labs: Getting Students Engaged

Exciting discoveries can happen in science labs, but without proper care and precaution, serious injuries can happen there too. Prevent injuries and damage to equipment by teaching your students about safety equipment and safe behavior in the lab. 

Explain safety rules and procedures with the engaging activities below. Remember to consult your own school district’s safety and equipment policies as well.


  • Chart paper—1 piece for warm-up activity, 1 piece for each group for mapping activity
  • Markers
  • PPE and safety equipment
  • Blank 8 ½" × 11" paper


  1. Label a large piece of chart paper “Rules We Know.”
  2. Pair students up and distribute one sheet of the blank 8 ½" × 11" paper to each pair.
  3. Give student pairs approximately 5 minutes to brainstorm and write down safety rules, equipment, or procedures they can remember from previous science courses. 
  4. After 5 minutes of discussion, give each pair a different color of marker and invite a student from each pair to write one of the items they discussed with their partner on the chart labeled “Rules We Know.”
  5. Discuss rules and allow students to add more rules and procedures.
  6. Distribute a copy of your Laboratory Safety Rules and Expectations to each student. See "Lab Safety Dos and Don'ts for Students" if you need ideas for items to include.
  7. Discuss why these rules, equipment, and procedures are important.

Activity 1: Map of the classroom safety equipment

  1. Distribute a piece of chart paper to each pair of students.
  2. Show students where safety equipment is located.
  3. Have each pair of students produce a map of the classroom indicating the location of the equipment. They should begin by sketching out the dimensions of the classroom using their designated marker.
  4. Once they have completed their maps, have the pairs rotate to a different group’s map and correct any inaccuracies.
  5. Continue this pattern until all safety equipment has been identified.

    Safety items to point out:

    1. Primary exit
    2. Secondary exit
    3. Fire extinguishers (include both types)
    4. Glass disposal
    5. Emergency gas and water shut-offs
    6. Solid waste disposal
    7. Liquid waste disposal
    8. Fume hood
    9. Alarm systems with pull station
    10. Safety blanket
    11. First aid kit
    12. Eyewash station
    13. Deluge safety showers
    14. Classroom phone and extension to dial for help

Activity 2: Illustrate a safety rule

  1. Assign each student a laboratory safety rule.
  2. Have students illustrate their assigned rule. Students may choose to draw by hand, or they can use multimedia illustrations or photographs.
  3. Along with their illustration, have students clearly print the safety rule exactly as it appears on your safety rules document.
  4. Have students present their safety rules and reinforce any points relevant to your course within that discussion.
  5. Display completed illustrations of safety rules in the classroom to remind students of safety procedures throughout the school year.
  6. Course specific safety agreements are available for download: Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Earth/Environmental Science, and General Science


Many school districts require each student enrolled in a science course to complete a laboratory safety quiz and achieve a minimum score to participate in laboratory activities. Refer to your department chair or science specialist regarding this requirement as it can vary by district.

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