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1.6: Content Overview

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Sexuality deals with the behavioral aspects of an adolescent's emerging sexual identity.

This unit progresses from a review of peers and friendship through the development of dating and romantic feelings to a discussion of sexual behavior. The discussion of sexual behavior covers both healthy and unhealthy sexual behaviors. Students are introduced to issues such as sexual abuse and rape. Sexuality also discusses sexually transmitted diseases (including AIDS), what they are, and how they are transmitted and treated. The unit concludes with a discussion of how sexual behavior fits into an individual's life, raising issues about how sexual behavior involves taking risks and, possibly, challenging one's own moral principles. This unit stresses that sexual intercourse should be only one aspect of a relationship and sexual behavior, and that abstinence eliminates risks unnecessary to most adolescents' lives. Throughout the unit students use graphs, charts, and Venn diagrams to interpret data about their behavior. Role-playing is used as a tool to develop resistance skills, and group activities facilitate discussion on sensitive issues. This unit covers the following concepts:

  • During adolescence, peer relationships take on new meaning in a youth's life-not only do these relationships become the source of important information about themselves, the world, and the way it works, they also become a primary source of emotional and psychological support. Peer pressure can guide many youths needing the support of the group into behavior she/he isn't ready for.
  • Most dating relationships during adolescence are romantic in nature-a valuable prelude to more serious relationships later in life. Are these relationships enhanced by sexual intercourse? Or hurt, because most teens aren't ready for the emotional demands of a physically intimate relationship or the risks of pregnancy or STDs?
  • Sexual behavior much like any other behavior, is guided by a combination of physiology (natural drive to seek out certain activities), cultural expectations, peer expectations, and personal characteristics.
  • Healthy sexual relationships at any point of life depend on good communication, trust and honesty, mutual respect, and cooperation and commitment.
  • Self-esteem, self-confidence and self-knowledge are powerful life skills/characteristics for all individuals. They enable individuals to maintain healthy relationships and avoid abusive situations.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases can happen to anyone who is sexually active-STDs do not discriminate on the basis of any personal characteristic.
  • Sexual behavior is closely tied to sexual morality, the moral principles you are brought up with.
  • Adolescents face a challenging time of life as they assume more and more responsibility, develop their judgment, and make decisions (without much experience to fall back on) about risky behaviors that could impact their lives forever.

Sections 1-2 discuss the changing nature of friendship during adolescence, the growing importance of spending time with peers, and the development of dating relationships and romantic feelings.

Sections 3-4 review the components of healthy sexual behavior, both in general and specific to adolescents.

Sections 5-7 cover the unhealthy components of sexual behavior. Section 5 discusses sexual abuse, coercion and rape, while sections 6 and 7 discuss sexually transmitted diseases.

Sections 8-9 put sexual behavior in the context of morality and ethics, and of taking risks. These sections pull the unit together in a discussion of how and when sexual behavior fits into an individual's life, and that a life has natural sexual cycles.

Why Teach This Unit?

  • One million teenage girls become pregnant each year.
  • Over one-half of women and almost three quarters of men have sex before age 18.
  • Three million (about 25% of sexually active teenagers) acquire a sexually transmitted disease every year.
  • Infectious syphilis has doubled since the 1980s.
  • AIDS is projected to grow fastest among young heterosexuals.

All too often we focus on the consequences of behavior, rather than focusing on how a behavior came about. This unit, through the text, discussion questions, activities, and writing opportunities asks students to think about and try to understand their own sexuality and sexual behavior.

In addition, this unit talks honestly and sensitively about the difficult topics of sexual coercion, sexual abuse, and rape. Students must know about these topics to make better decisions for themselves, to recognize dangerous situations, and to better understand that sexual intercourse is not merely about feeling good, but also about powerful emotions and serious risks.

Students will emerge from this learning experience with:

  • a better sense of what healthy sexual relationships are all about.
  • encouragement to rely on one's own internal set of principles and beliefs.
  • an understanding of what sexual abuse, coercion, and rape are all about.
  • scripts for handling difficult situations in dating, talking about sexual issues, and sexual health.

The sign of a good curriculum is that it can be used as it suits students. It should be adaptable to all. You can match the HumBio Curriculum with the curriculum goals you've developed for the students in your school.

Summary Questions for the Unit

Is sexual intercourse a necessary component to most adolescent relationships? Why do adolescents in a serious relationship seem destined to engage in sexual intercourse?

What is the most important influence in your life right now? Friends? Family? Self-respect and self-esteem? Are there different motivators and sources of influence for different situations?

A lot of discussion goes on about the consequences of teen behavior-why don't most people study why teens behave the way they do?

What does the media tell you about healthy sexual relationships? Do TV story lines include any mention of contraception? Discussions about physical intimacy? Why not?

What are your moral principles regarding sexual behavior? Where do they come from? How can you stick by them in the face of adversity?

What is the most effective way to help adolescents to realize that their actions have consequences especially ones they may not see immediately?

Unit Activities and Key Ideas
Section Key Ideas Activities

1 Friends and Peers

Who are they and how do they affect who you are?

  • As adolescents mature, they spend less time with their family and more time with their friends, with whom they share the experience of adolescence and adulthood.
  • Friends provide us with information not only about ourselves, but also about the world, and where we fit in.
  • Peer pressure can influence young adolescents tremendously, depending on an adolescent's level of self-confidence, sense of self, and dependence on friends for approval.

Mini Activity: Family and Friends

Mini Activity: Peer Groups in Your Parents' Day

Mini Activity: Time Spent

Activity 1-1: Peer Pressure

Mini Activity: Recipe for Choosing a Friend

Mini Activity: Who Says So?

2 Dating and Romantic Feelings

What is love all about?

  • The development of sexual interest comes from biological causes (direct and indirect effect of hormones) and psychological causes stemming from cultural expectations. Dating, unusual in many other parts of the world, is a culturally based experience, dependent on parental and peer expectations.
  • Love is a basic human emotion. Some psychologists describe three components of love-intimacy, passion, and commitment. Love and intimacy do not require sexual intercourse, but most couples in love want to express their feelings with some level of physical intimacy.
  • Romantic love combines intimacy and passion, but lacks commitment. Adolescent love tends to be romantic love. Loving someone helps adolescents become more caring and giving, enabling them to develop the most long-lasting and rewarding love, consummate love.

Mini Activity: Me Call? No Way!

Activity 2-1: Scripts for Dating

Activity 2-2: Judging People by Their Looks

Mini Activity: What Is the Difference?

Activity 2-3: What Happens When You Are in Love?

Mini Activity: Love Designs

Mini Activity: Love Is in the Air

Mini Activity: Debate!

Mini Activity: Combining Sex and Love

3 Sexual Function and Behavior

How does the body respond to sexual arousal? What are some normal sexual behaviors among humans?

  • Humans of all ages feel a sexual drive, but during adolescence the intensity of this drive increases into a sexual awakening. Sexual behaviors include behaviors one engages in by oneself and behaviors one engages in with another person.
  • Sexual behavior has two parts, each driven by physical and psychological components-sexual arousal and sexual response. It is not entirely dependent on hormones, as it is with many animals, but is closely linked with our feelings and thoughts.
  • Sexual orientation refers to being heterosexual or homosexual. No one completely understands the interaction of genetics, hormones, and psychological and cultural factors in determining sexual orientation.

Mini Activity: Causation

Activity 3-1: Help! I'm Falling in Love

4 Adolescent Sexual Behavior

What guides your sexual behavior?

  • The development of sexual behavior progresses from a childlike playfulness to more serious adult-like behavior. The development of sexual behavior is largely cultural-based.
  • Statistics show a wide range of sexual experience Light from school to school and city to city. Generally, the less intimate the behavior, the more likely it is that girls and boys have tried it.
  • Choosing abstinence or sexual intimacy is a personal choice, and a choice highly influenced by peer pressure. Generally, there is more pressure to engage in sexual activities than to abstain from them.
  • Sexual relationships involve much more than sexual intercourse. The risks of pregnancy and STDs, the emotional and physical vulnerability, and the dynamics of intense interpersonal relationships bring much complexity to sexual relationships.
  • Healthy sexual relationships should reflect readiness and maturity, mutual respect and love, trust, honesty, cooperation, and commitment. All too frequently we see examples of compliance, seduction, or even coercion, which reflect an unhealthy sexual relationship.

Mini Activity: Questions-Questions

Mini Activity: Debate!

Activity 4-1: Red Light-Green Light

Mini Activity: Lyrical Messages

Mini Activity: Learn the Signs

Activity 4-2: If You Loved Me

5 Sexual Abuse and Coercion

How do people take sexual advantage of each other?

  • Sexual abuse of children takes advantage of a child's inability (due to age or maturity) to give informed consent.
  • The nature of the effects of abuse depend on the child's age and level of maturity, the nature and duration of abuse, and how the discovery and treatment of the situation is handled.
  • Sexual exploitation and abuse are ways people take unfair sexual advantage of other people for selfish reasons.
  • Rape is the most extreme form of coercion. It involves forcing another person into sexual interaction without their informed consent.

Mini Activity: Debate!

Activity 5-1: Sexual Harassment

Mini Activity: Help Is Available

Mini Activity: Be Prepared

Activity 5-2: What Does “Stop” Mean?

6 Sexually Transmitted Diseases

What are they and how are they transmitted?

  • Sexually transmitted diseases range from minor complaints to life-threatening illnesses. They can be avoided by practicing abstinence, knowing your partner's sexual history, and using condoms with spermicide.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases are caused by bacteria or viruses that are transmitted from person to person through the exchange of bodily fluids, typically through sexual contact.
  • Most bacterial STDs should be treated promptly and completely with antibiotics. Viral STDs are typically more serious than bacterial STDs, are more difficult to treat, and are easier to get in the presence of bacterial STDs.

Activity 6-1: What to Say and How

Mini Activity: Campaign against STDs

Activity 6-2: STD Handshake


How is AIDS spread? Can I hug a person with AIDS?

  • AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the virus HIV.
  • The majority of people infected with HIV develop AIDS within 10 years or so. Because of this long dormant period, many people infected with the AIDS virus don't know it, continue to have unprotected sex, and spread the disease at epidemic rates.
  • AIDS turns off the body's immune system; infected individuals typically die of secondary infections such as pneumonia.
  • AIDS is spread through blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. It is not spread through casual contact.

Mini Activity: AIDS in the News

Mini Activity: What Do You Want to Know?

Activity 7-1: Dealing with AIDS

8 Sexual Morality

What makes sex right or wrong?

  • Moral beliefs are either absolute (constant over time and situation) or relative (situation dependent).
  • Most moral principles come from principles laid out in the foundations of religious beliefs. As a result, people from different religions may have different moral principles.
  • Sexual behavior is closely linked to moral principles Decision about how we should treat ourselves and others.

Mini Activity: Absolute or Relative?

Mini Activity: Debate!

Mini Activity: Sexuality Puzzle

Mini Activity: Decision Making Practice

Activity 8-1: Deciding for Yourself

9 Making Decisions

Making decisions

  • People differ in their willingness to take risks-some abstain, some are cautious, and others are reckless.
  • Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to the risks of sexual behavior, due to their inexperience, lack of good information, cognitive development, and level of maturity.
  • The experience of sex, its meaning and importance, and life changes result in times when the risks involved make sense and are entirely appropriate, and other times when they are not.

Mini Activity: Risk

Activity 9-1: Risk Taking and Sexual Coercion

Activity 9-2: Sexuality in the Lives of Four Couples

Mini Activity: Role Models

Teacher's Guide Overview

The Sexuality unit is built around a set of student activities. Text material can be used to introduce, reinforce, and extend the concepts developed in the activities. The activities are the foundation of this unit, so the unit's success depends on student's involvement in the activities. Embedded activities are interrelated, since the concepts developed in one may be applied in another.

Section Planning

For each section, you'll find extensive advance planning for the student activities and the section topic. Key ideas, section objectives, background information, suggestions for introducing activities, and the materials needed for each activity are listed on the Section Planning page. Review this information ahead of time to ensure that materials for each activity are available when you need them.

Support for Embedded Activities

Embedded activities are those activities contained or “embedded” in the student edition. Procedures for each embedded activity are contained in the student edition. In the Teacher's Guide, you'll find activity planning information, activity assessment, and student reproducible pages for each embedded activity.

Enrichment Activities

Enrichment activities are activities found in most Teacher's Guides. These activities are designed to extend and enrich students' learning experiences. Complete Enrichment activities, including Teacher Activity Notes and student Activity Guides, are located at the end of each appropriate section of the Teacher's Guide. These sample Enrichment pages are taken from the Genetics unit, which would connect well with the content in this unit.

GroupWork Activities Learning science is a process that is both individual and social. Students in science classrooms often need to interact with their peers to develop a knowledge of scientific concepts and ideas, just as researchers, engineers, mathematicians, and physicians do who are working in teams to answer questions and to solve problems. The GroupWork activities of the HumBio Curriculum for Middle Grades have been developed to foster a collaborative environment for groups of students. Students plan experiments, collect and review data, ask questions and offer solutions, use data to explain and justify their arguments, discuss ideas and negotiate conflicting interpretations, summarize and present findings, and explore the societal implications of the scientific enterprise. In short, GroupWork activities provide an environment in which students are “doing science” as a team.

For more information, refer to “Using GroupWork Activities” on page 103. The specific GroupWork activities for this unit can be found beginning on TE page 106.

Projects These research and action projects provide students the opportunity to take a position, debate an issue, and devise a plan of action. In this way, students can apply what they've learned to the world around them.

Projects for this unit include

  • Research Questions
  • Multicultural Perspectives: Issues of Sexuality

Assessment Overview

Within each section of the unit there are suggestions for assessment that can be used individually or in combination to develop a complete assessment package. The list below describes the variety of assessment tools provided.

Apply Your Knowledge questions appear throughout each section. They can be used as homework assignments and as ways to initiate a class discussion. These questions are designed to assess

  • communication skills
  • depth of thought and preparation
  • problem-solving skills
  • ability to apply concepts to related or big ideas
  • how well students relate their new knowledge to different problems

What Do You Think?

These questions appear in each section. They provide students with opportunities to think and write about the concepts they are learning in a larger context. You can use these questions to assess

  • writing skills
  • problem-solving abilities
  • creativity and depth of thought
  • the ability to analyze and summarize

Journal Writing prompts are suggested throughout the unit. These prompts provide opportunities for students to write critically and creatively about concepts and issues. The writing products can be used to assess

  • writing skills
  • depth of thought
  • and the ability to explain and expand concepts

Review Questions

Review Questions are located at the end of each section. These questions can be used for written responses or as the basis for class discussion. These questions are designed to assess content knowledge and whether students can explain the concepts explored in the section.

Activity-Based Assessment

Inquiry-base student-centered activities are the foundation of the Human Biology Program. The unit is rich with relevant and exciting activities that introduce, support, or reinforce concepts students are exploring. Within the Teacher's Guide, you'll find extensive teacher information, including assessment strategies, for each type of activity:

  • Embedded Activities
  • Enrichment Activities
  • Mini Activities
  • GroupWork
  • Projects

Love Is in the Air For two or three days, write down the names of songs you hear that deal with some aspect of love. Indicate whether they deal with intimacy, passion, and/or commitment.

You can use students' products to assess their progress. These products include models, simulations, observations and reports of laboratory investigations, role-plays, written responses to question and written observations, student-designed explorations and procedures, poster presentations, and classroom presentations.


You may want to have each student develop a portfolio for the unit. Portfolio assessment is an excellent way to assess the whole student as he or she progresses through the unit. Although there are many opportunities to select a variety of the students' products, the following list shows one possible assessment portfolio for this unit:

  • Written responses to one Apply Your Knowledge from each section.
  • An analysis of their two favorite Activities and how these activities helped them understand an important concept.
  • Two examples of written reports from library research.
  • An analysis or interpretation of graphs.
  • One example of an artistic creation.

Getting Started

Addressing Sensitive Issues. This unit covers not only the sensitive issues of sexual behavior and sexuality, but also a discussion of moral principles. You may want to communicate your schedule of topics with parents, and anticipate problems rather than react to them. It is also important to know and adhere to the policies your Board of Education has established for dealing with sensitive material. As sensitive as the material is, students cannot fully understand the many risks of life and sexual activity without open discussions of unhealthy sexual behaviors and disease. Talking about anal intercourse is difficult, but you cannot talk about AIDS and ignore it.

Establish Ground Rules for Discussion. Not everyone is comfortable teaching about the subjects in this unit. Hopefully you will be working with a group of students with whom you have already had an opportunity to develop trust. If not, this will need to be established first to ensure an open dialogue. One way to make yourself and your students comfortable is to establish some ground rules for discussions: respect the thoughts of others, don't tease, be mature, use no “put-downs,” respect confidentiality, grant the “right to pass,” etc. One of the first things you might start off with is a discussion of why the subject causes so much embarrassment and shyness.

A sense of humor can be a useful tool in teaching sensitive subjects, as long as you don't become glib or insensitive. Be prepared for any sort of question, and answer all questions truthfully. If you don't know the answer, say so, and if possible give students a source to find the answers.

Keep Students Interested. Encourage students to read the text: It is the story line that ties all of the content together. Every effort has been made to make the text interesting to students and appropriate to their reading level. Text material can be used to introduce, reinforce, and extend the concepts addressed within the activities.

The success of the unit depends on the completion of at least the Embedded activities. And keep in mind that some activities are related since the data obtained in one may be used in another.

Plan Ahead. The unit is activity-based, and you can select the activities that will best meet your class' needs. The activities are listed in the Unit Activities and Key Ideas charts on pages xv-xvii and in the Activity Index on page 146. Mini Activities are shorter and can be done with minimal teacher input; they are located in the margin of the student edition. The Embedded activities in the student text are investigations that require some planning and setup time; these are the essential activities within the unit.

A variety of projects were designed to extend the content of the unit. These include ongoing class projects, school projects, and/or community projects. Projects are located at the end of the Teacher's Guide, beginning on page 138.

Customize the Unit. Each section of this unit builds upon knowledge gained in the previous sections. Teaching timelines are provided on TE pages xxiv-xxv. The first timeline on TE page xxiv demonstrates how to complete this unit within a three-week schedule. The timeline on TE page xxv demonstrates how to complete this unit within a five-week schedule. Both of these timelines highlight the essential activities. If your class has time to study the unit over a longer period of time, many additional activities are available.

Allow Time for Projects. Consider having students start projects at the beginning of the unit and then prepare those projects for presentation as a culminating event.

Use Current Events. Ask students to bring in newspaper and magazine articles that relate to what they are studying each week. Relating the unit content to current events helps students see that what they are doing in class is, in fact, relevant to their lives outside of school. Students can use current events to make group scrapbooks, bulletin boards, and posters or to develop class presentations.

Make a “Question Box” Available. Have students write down questions they have about what they are investigating and put them in the box. At appropriate times select questions and read them to the class to generate discussion. These questions can also be used to initiate class research projects.

Use a Variety of Resources. We encourage you and your students to use a wide variety of sources for information. The activities provide rich opportunities for students to explore a variety of concepts. The more students incorporate information from resources outside the classroom, the richer their learning experiences will be. Use computer services for gathering student and teacher information, for networking with students in different schools and with community resources, and for contacting experts in the field under study. A list of resources can be found on page 141 of this Teacher's Guide.

Make Career Connections. Encourage students to investigate careers related to the content of the unit. Invite scientists, physicians, and technologists working in the field to come to your classroom to discuss career opportunities, their research, and specific topics of interest.

Plan for Field Trips. Field trips to local hospitals, industrial sites, or universities need, of course, to be arranged well in advance. Contact the public affairs offices of these institutions for assistance.

Address Health Concerns. Be aware of any special health problems your students may have. Some students may have health conditions that would make it uncomfortable for them to participate in certain activities, such as those that require exercise or that relate directly to their particular health problems. For students unable to participate fully in these activities you may wish to create an alternative assignment or have them use data from another group. If the class is appropriately prepared, the affected students may want to share information about their special circumstances with the class in order to increase empathy and knowledge of all students.

Connect with Other Disciplines. The interdisciplinary web provided is a guide for planning if your school uses an interdisciplinary team approach. The web classifies the unit's activities and projects by related discipline- language arts, math, social studies, physical education, health/nutrition and visual performing arts, and science. For interdisciplinary planning, schedule meetings with your team early. You are encouraged to tap the talents and interests of your team members as well as of your unique school and community resources in developing other suitable activities for this unit.

Connect with the Home. Give special attention to the unit activities as a means of involving family and community members. Also, encourage your students to take selected Apply Your Knowledge questions and Mini Activities home for further exploration.

Teaching Timelines

You can use these timelines as a place to start in designing your own timelines, or you can use them as they are laid out. If you're planning your own timeline, consider the inclusion of the Embedded activities first. The “Embedded activities” are included in the student edition. The GroupWork activities and Projects can then be included, depending on your time restrictions. The timelines are guides dependent on activities done at home and in other classes in addition to science.

Given your time constraints, it may not be possible to do all the activities shown on these timelines. If you need to remove activities, be careful not to remove any activities critical to the content of the unit. You may want to divide the activities among interdisciplinary members of your teaching team.

Page references in these charts refer to the student edition.

Option 1: Three Week Timeline
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1 Read Section 1

Do Activity 1-1: Peer Pressure

Read Section 2

Do Activity 2-1: Scripts for Dating Do Activity 2-2: Judging People by Their Looks OR Activity 2-3: What Happens When You Are in Love? Read Section 3 Do Activity 3-1: Help! I'm Falling in Love
Week 2 Read Section 4 Do Activity 4-1: Red Light-Green Light OR Activity 4-2: If You Loved Me

Read Section 5

Do Activity 5-1: Sexual Harassment

Finish Section 5

Do Activity 5-2: What Does “Stop” Mean?

Read Section 6 up to Activity 6-1

Do Activity 6-1: What to Say and How
Week 3

Finish reading Section 6

Do Activity 6-2: STD Handshake

Read Section 7

Do Activity 7-1: Dealing with AIDS

Read Section 8

Do Activity 8-1: Deciding for Yourself

Read Section 9 up to Activity 9-1

Do Activity 9-1: Risk Taking and Sexual Coercion

Finish Section 9

Do Activity 9-2: Sexuality in the Lives of Four Couples
Option 2: Five Week Timeline
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1 Read Section 1

Do Activity 1-1: Peer Pressure

Read Section 2 up to Activity 2-1

Do Activity 2-1: Scripts for Dating

Read Section 2 up to Activity 2-2

Do Activity 2-2: Judging People by Their Looks

Introduce project choices.

Have students choose a project from the 1 Research Questions list or have the entire class do Project 2: Multicultural Perspectives
Week 2 Finish Section 2

Do Activity 2-3: What Happens When You Are in Love?

Read Section 3 up to Activity 3-1

Do Activity 3-1: Help! I'm Falling in Love

Finish and discuss section 3

Read section 4 up to Activity 4-1

Do Activity 4-1: Red Light-Green Light

Project day: allow students time to work
Week 3 Finish Section 4

Do Activity 4-2: If You Loved Me

Read Section 5 up to Activity 5-1

Do Activity 5-1: Sexual Harassment

Finish Section 5

Do Activity 5-2: What Does “Stop” Mean?

Read Section 6 up to Activity 6-1

Do Activity 6-1: What to Say and How

Project day: allow students time to work
Week 4 Finish Section 6 Do Activity 6-2: STD Handshake Read Section 7

Do Activity 7-1: Dealing with AIDS

Read section 8

Project day: allow students time to work
Week 5 Do Activity 8-1: Deciding for Yourself

Read Section 9 up to Activity 9-1

Do Activity 9-1: Risk Taking and Sexual Coercion

Finish Section 9

Do Activity 9-2: Sexuality in the Lives of Four Couples

Have groups share projects Have groups share projects

Safety for Teachers

  • Always perform an experiment or demonstration on your own before allowing students to perform the activity. Look for possible hazards. Alert students to possible dangers. Safety instructions should be given each time an experiment is begun.
  • Wear glasses and not contact lenses. Make sure you and your students wear safety goggles in the lab when performing any experiments.
  • Do not tolerate horseplay or practical jokes of any kind.
  • Do not allow students to perform any unauthorized experiments.
  • Never use mouth suction in filling pipettes with chemical reagents.
  • Never “force” glass tubing into rubber stoppers.
  • Use equipment that is heat resistant.
  • Set good safety examples when conducting demonstrations and experiments.
  • Turn off all hot plates and open burners when they are not in use and when leaving the lab.
  • When students are working with open flames, remind them to tie back long hair and to be aware of loose clothing in order to avoid contact with flames.
  • Make sure you and your students know the location of and how to use fire extinguishers, eyewash fountains, safety showers, fire blankets, and first-aid kits.
  • Students and student aides should be fully aware of potential hazards and know how to deal with accidents. Establish and educate students on first-aid procedures.
  • Teach students the safety precautions regarding the use of electricity in everyday situations. Make sure students understand that the human body is a conductor of electricity. Never handle electrical equipment with wet hands or when standing in damp areas. Never overload electrical circuits. Use 3-prong service outlets.
  • Make sure that electrical equipment is properly grounded. A ground-fault circuit breaker is desirable for all laboratory AC circuits. A master switch to cut off electricity to all stations is desirable for all laboratory AC circuits.
  • Make sure you and your students are familiar with how to leave the lab safely in an emergency. Be sure you know a safe exit route in the event of a fire or an explosion.

For Student Safety

Safety in the Classroom

  • Wear safety goggles in the lab when performing any experiments. Tie back long hair and tuck in loose clothing while performing experiments, especially when working near or with an open flame.
  • Never eat or drink anything while working in the science classroom. Only lab manuals, notebooks, and writing instruments should be in the work area.
  • Do not taste any chemicals for any reason, including identification.
  • Carefully dispose of waste materials as instructed by your teacher. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Do not use cracked, chipped, or deeply scratched glassware, and never handle broken glass with your bare hands.
  • Lubricate glass tubing and thermometers with water or glycerin before inserting them into a rubber stopper. Do not apply force when inserting or removing a stopper from glassware while using a twisting motion.
  • Allow hot glass to cool before touching it. Hot glass shows no visible signs of its temperature and can cause painful burns. Do not allow the open end of a heated test tube to be pointed toward another person.
  • Do not use reflected sunlight for illuminating microscopes. Reflected sunlight can damage your eyes.
  • Tell your teacher if you have any medical problems that may affect your safety in doing lab work. These problems may include allergies, asthma, sensitivity to certain chemicals, epilepsy, or any heart condition.
  • Report all accidents and problems to your teacher immediately.


  • Preserved specimens showing signs of decay should not be used for lab observation or dissection. Alert your teacher to any problem with the specimen.
  • Dissecting instruments, such as scissors and scalpels, are sharp. Use a cutting motion directed away from yourself and your lab partner.
  • Be sure the specimen is pinned down firmly in a dissecting tray before starting a dissection.
  • In most cases very little force is necessary for making incisions. Excess force can damage delicate, preserved tissues.
  • Do not touch your eyes while handling preserved specimens. First wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap. Also wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap when you are finished with the dissection.

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