Teaching tomorrow’s teachers about lab safety

Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario workshop advances education, best practices

Supporting science . . . by stressing safety.

That’s the intent of an annual lab safety workshop for teaching candidates, arranged and hosted by the Science Teachers’ Association of Ontario (STAO).

Every year, volunteers from STAO—a professional non-profit educational organization—deliver this “biology safety” workshop at Toronto’s York University. It’s just one element of STAO’s ScienceWorks program, which delivers professional learning workshops for teachers across Ontario.

“We encourage microchemistry, the use of safety shields where available, the use of fume hoods when possible for demonstrations, and how to plan for the unexpected,” says Kristina Lee, a retired science teacher from Wallaceburg District Secondary School in Wallaceburg, ON, who now volunteers her time to STAO as an instructor and mentor for young teachers ready to enter the profession.

This three-hour STAO lab safety session, delivered to Faculty of Education students at York U, focuses on:

  • health and safety;
  • minimizing accidents, through best-practice techniques; and
  • basic laboratory safety principles, like small volumes, lower concentrations and safer alternatives.

Established in 1890, STAO is committed to advancing science education. Over the years, STAO has delivered similar workshops at post-secondary and secondary schools across southern Ontario, including the GTA, Sudbury, Ottawa and Niagara.

Safety will always be Enbridge’s No. 1 priority. We’re committed to enhancing safety and quality of life in the communities near our pipelines and facilities, and we’ve provided financial support for STAO programs in southwestern Ontario for the past three years.

Teaching candidates who’ve taken this STAO workshop have pointed to lab safety protocols and due diligence as the most helpful aspects of the offering.

“A science degree focuses mainly on science content, and less in the way of safe handling of chemicals, lesson preparation and storage,” says Lee. “Many of these (teaching) students may get jobs out of country. It’s important that we prepare our future teachers for a global market.”

(TOP PHOTO: York University students Amy Urquhart, left, and Christina Salvatore model Enbridge-branded gloves during a recent STAO lab safety workshop.)