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7 Safety Guidelines for Guest Presentations

Although guest presenters can offer real-life science experiences to students, they may not be familiar with the safety practices that need to be in place to create safer learning experiences. In October 2012, for instance, two fourth graders were rushed to a hospital during a science demonstration involving dry ice and salt. As part of the demonstration with the science education company Mad Science, students placed items in their mouths, reportedly resulting in corrosive burns in one child’s mouth and throat.

As a licensed professional, the teacher carries the bulk of the legal responsibility with student injuries during a demonstration. Thus, science teachers need to keep safety in mind when planning a guest presentation. The following seven strategies will help teachers prepare for the event and establish safety guidelines and expectations for guest speakers.

1. School policies. Contact school administrators to determine if there are any policies in place governing the use of guest speakers in your classroom or science laboratory.

2. Announce the activity. Let the school’s main office know about plans to have a guest speaker, including the time, date, location, and topic. Also, invite building administrators, the department head, and fellow colleagues to the presentation.

3. Choose a reputable source. Know who you are inviting as a guest. Reach out to colleagues, parents, the local Chamber of Commerce, local colleges, and other reputable resources for guest speakers.

4. Set your expectations. Before the guest speaker comes into the classroom:

• review any school policies related to guest speakers; and security procedures such as registering at the main office and wearing appropriate attire.
• review the speaker’s lesson plan(s) to determine what safety procedures (e.g., personal protective equipment, hazardous chemical use) might be required. The teacher must also approve any changes to the lesson plan before the presentation.
• the science teacher and the guest presenter should develop and sign a letter of agreement, acknowledging the lesson plan and required safety practices that will be in place.
• request educational technology needs (e.g., computer, LCD projector, VCR).
• provide parking instructions.

5. Check the hygiene plan. Review your school’s Chemical Hygiene Plan with the guest speaker, especially in demonstrations using hazardous chemicals or requiring general laboratory work.

6. Give feedback. Develop a teacher and student feedback form about the presentation as well as a speaker feedback form to be filled out by the presenter. Share summaries of the feedback with the presenter. The student feedback form could use the Likert scale focusing on items such as:
• usefulness of information presented,
• level of interest in topic by students,
• relevance to area of study, and
• general comments/recommendations.

The teacher feedback form could include items such as:
• grade appropriateness,
• additional safety suggestions,
• areas of strength,
• areas of least interest, and
• general comments and suggestions.

The speaker feedback form for teacher could include:
• availability and operation of educational technology,
• communications and arrangements,
• specific expertise,
• future interest in presenting, and
• general recommendations.

7. Have a backup plan. Have an alternative plan such as a reading assignment, video, or lecture in place in case of an emergency or you or the presenter cannot make it that day, but you may also reschedule the activity to another time.

In the end

Teachers should give the presenter a thank-you note from students.

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at safesci@sbcglobal.net or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

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