High School Chemistry Guidelines │ Physical Plant – The Classroom and Laboratory

Physical Plant − The Laboratory and Classroom

The Classroom

The 21st century high school chemistry classroom provides a dynamic learning environment that is student centered and curriculum-driven. The floor plan is designed for conversation, collaboration, and discovery. The classroom should contain multiple spaces that provide for long-term multidisciplinary projects, individual and small group learning, inquiry lessons, project-based learning, and problem solving. Flexibility in the arrangement of space, which includes movable workstations, is highly recommended. Universal design allows students with disabilities to fully participate and have access to all facilities, technology, and safety equipment.

The 21st century high school chemistry classroom provides a dynamic learning environment that is student centered and curriculum-driven. The floor plan is designed for conversation, collaboration, and discovery. The classroom should contain multiple spaces that provide for long-term multidisciplinary projects, individual and small group learning, inquiry lessons, project-based learning, and problem solving. Flexibility in the arrangement of space, which includes movable workstations, is highly recommended. Universal design allows students with disabilities to fully participate and have access to all facilities, technology, and safety equipment.

Teacher accommodations should include a desk, chair, computer, and a demonstration table that includes a sink, natural gas connection, and a safety shield. Safety equipment includes a hands-free eye wash station, a master cut-off switch for electrical power, a master shut-off switch for gas, a fire blanket, a fire extinguisher(s), a first-aid kit, and a goggle sanitizer. A telephone with an outside line must be available in case of emergency.

A wireless network allows computers, printers, electronic display boards, and video projection systems to be connected. Room darkeners may be necessary. A portable cart with 12 to 24 personal electronic devices can be shared with several other classrooms. This technology will connect students with classrooms around the world, scientific facilities, reference materials, and data collection systems. Computers also allow for enhanced access for students with disabilities. A lockable file cabinet should be available for teacher use. To prevent clutter, storage for students’ personal items is necessary. Bookcases, storage cabinets that are master-keyed, and shelves are needed for classroom supplies. Wall space should be provided for a periodic table display and reference charts, dry-erase boards, tack boards, and for showing student work.

The Laboratory

The chemistry classroom often serves as a laboratory. This room is an integral part of the high school chemistry experience. It allows students to explore chemical concepts, view changes in matter, and acquire scientific skills in an atmosphere similar to a professional scientific environment.

Arrangement

The laboratory should be arranged so that instruction and lab skills may be practiced safely and effectively. Classrooms devoted to science instruction containing scientific equipment and supplies should not be used for other activities or non-science courses. The classroom/laboratory needs to be vacant one period per day for safe lab setup and proper cleanup. Teachers must have adequate preparation time. Lab activities should only be conducted in a science classroom/lab that is outfitted with proper hardware and safety equipment.

Workstations

Each laboratory should contain a fully equipped teacher station suitable for demonstrations and lab work. Student workstations should be arranged throughout the remaining work area. The chemistry laboratory may contain moveable lab stations or fixed lab stations. The latter allows for a more productive use of time because the facility is always available. To ensure student safety with adequate supervision, the ACS and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recommend a maximum of 24 students per classroom based on 60 square feet per student. The NSTA has produced a position statement on the liability of science educators for laboratory safety (NSTA, 2007).

Spacing

The square footage per pupil must meet state regulations. Different state mandates may require additional square footage. Space may also be based on building and fire safety codes, appropriate supervision, and the special needs of students. Additional areas should include a safety station and a station for students with disabilities. The arrangement of furniture must allow for adequate flexibility and supervision. For safety reasons, stools should not be in the walkways during laboratory investigations.

Utilities

Workstations should have access to natural gas, water, and electricity. Electrical outlets built into the frame of the workstation and equipped with a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) must be away from water and gas outlets and should be plentiful enough to accommodate computers and technology equipment.

Labeling

Containers should be clearly labeled for the disposal of chemicals and broken glassware. Cabinetry within the workstations, or placed around the perimeter of the room, should be used to store supplies and serve as storage for additional lab equipment and computers. Cabinets used for storing laboratory equipment should be selected to accommodate long glassware, as well as heavy equipment.

Lab Equipment

At a minimum, laboratory equipment should include:

Category Equipment
Glassware Beakers, graduated cylinders, funnels, flasks (assorted), burettes, gas collecting tubes, storage bottles, glass stirring rods, test tubes, glass tubing
Laboratory hardware Ring stands, assorted clamps, wire gauze, strikers, scoopulas, tongs, triangular files, brushes
Ceramic ware Evaporating dishes, crucibles, triangles, mortars and pestles, spot plates
Heating elements Bunsen burners, hot plates
Connections and storage Tubing (rubber and polypropylene), rubber stoppers (assorted sizes)
Electronic Balances

The recommended minimum core inventory to support standards-sased snstruction for chemistry devloped by the California Science Teachers Association provides a more detailed list of equipment and consumables (CSTA, 2008). Refer to the teacher’s edition of the classroom textbook and laboratory manual for a list of equipment, reagents, and quantities needed for class activities.

Fumes and Aeration

Fume hoods suitable for demonstrations should be clearly visible in all areas of the laboratory. The fume hoods must have proper ventilation according to laboratory safety standards. Access to the fume hoods will be for the teacher, students, and individuals with disabilities

The need for proper ventilation in the laboratory is of utmost importance. OSHA Laboratory Standard 1910 states: “Four–12 room air exchanges per hour is adequate general ventilation if local exhaust systems such as hoods are used as the primary method of control.” Air that is exhausted from the lab must be vented to the outdoors and not recirculated (OSHA 2012).

Computers and Technology

Schools may prefer to have computers and technological equipment located at desks along the perimeter of the room. These desks should be at seat height with accompanying chairs. Desks for individuals with disabilities should be at a height specified by state standards.

The instructor’s computer should have interactive connections for activities and visualizations on an electronic display board. The demonstration portion of the teacher’s station should be equipped with a proper supply of gas, water, and electricity.

Safety Equipment

All laboratories should have the following safety equipment:

  • Unobstructed access to an eye wash station with a continuous water supply that can flush both eyes at the same time and that is within reach in 10 seconds;
  • Safety shower;
  • Chemical Splash Goggles (American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z 87.1) and a sanitizing goggle cabinet;
  • First-aid station which includes a first-aid kit and blood clean-up items;
  • Fire blanket;
  • Fire extinguishers (as established by building code);
  • Acid spill clean-up station;
  • Broken glass disposal container;
  • Safety and chemical inventory software;
  • Chemical and flame-resistant aprons or lab coats; and
  • Nonlatex gloves.

To ensure a safe learning environment, administrators, teachers, students, and parents will establish a comprehensive safety agreement which will be implemented in every science classroom. The American Chemical Society’s Committee on Chemical Safety provides a sample agreement on its Web site (ACS, 2009).

Prep Room and Chemical Storage Closet

The teacher preparation room should be convenient and preferably adjacent to the classroom/lab. This facility can be shared between two classrooms. It should have a sink, proper ventilation, a fume hood, an eye wash station, and a fire extinguisher. Check state and local codes for space requirements. An outside telephone line is needed for emergencies. Recommended appliances for the area include a full-sized laboratory glassware washer and refrigerator with ice maker. Room for equipment, such as a deionized or distilled water source and storage carts, should be made available.

The school superintendent, science department chairperson, and chemistry teachers are accountable for developing a comprehensive and responsible chemical management program that protects students, teachers, staff, and the environment from potentially hazardous chemicals. Typically, the superintendent appoints a chemical safety officer to oversee the program (OSHA, 2012).

Chemicals are to be stored in a separate storage closet that has a door lock. The closet must be properly vented and the fan must be spark proof. No electrical receptacle outlets should be permitted as they may present a shock or an electrical fire hazard to users. Safety materials include an eye wash and fire extinguisher. There must be separate commercial storage units for acids, flammables, and corrosives. Properly supported shelves for general storage should be noncorrosive and must be properly secured to the walls. They should have a maximum depth of 12 inches and at least one-half inch lip on the shelf edge.

It is important to keep a current inventory of chemicals. Outdated and unknown chemicals should be properly discarded. The Flinn Science Catalog Reference Manual (Flinn Scientific, 2011) and ScholAR Chemistry provide guidelines for proper disposal. Chemicals should be dated when received and opened. Organize chemicals into compatible chemical families, rather than alphabetically. The School Chemistry Laboratory Safety Guide (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2006) provides guidelines for safely storing chemicals. It is recommended that all Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) be organized in a three-ring binder and that the binder be stored in a place that is accessible to all chemistry teachers.