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1.6: Unit Planning

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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Content Overview

Your Changing Body: What changes occur during Puberty? Why? How?

Your Changing Body provides an overview of the physical and related psychological changes of puberty for both boys and girls. Students learn that while puberty is a universal event, every adolescent develops at his or her own pace. The unit stresses that there is a wide range of normal in terms of the time and sequence in which the changes of puberty occur. Students use graphs throughout the unit to examine concepts such as rate of growth, the overlapping cycles of menstruation and the average ages and range at which the changes of puberty take place. They use charts to compare ideas, and interpret diagrams when reviewing new material. Students participate in role-playing activities to demonstrate complex relationships such as the one between glands, hormones, and the reproductive system. Discussion groups are used to address issues such as the common concerns of puberty and the specific problems and changes faced by boys and girls. Gender identity and gender roles are looked at in terms of how they are shaped, as well as how they impact behavior. Major concepts addressed in the unit include the following.

  • Many factors can affect puberty, including heredity, the physical and social environment, ethnicity, nutrition, health, and emotional well being.
  • Hormones control many body functions, including the development of the reproductive system, the onset of puberty, and much of our reproductive lives.
  • It is important for students to understand not only about their own physical and psychological development, but also about the changes occurring in the opposite sex.
  • It is difficult to separate physical and psychological development-together they make us the people we are.
  • Understanding what puberty is and what to expect can improve sensitivity to others and alleviate common concerns, including fear of change, and the fear of being “the only one who feels that way.”
  • Feeling good about oneself is important. Many healthy ways exist to improve self-esteem and avoid unhealthy behaviors.

How This Unit Is Organized

Sections 1-3 introduce students to the physical changes specific to boys and girls, and to the factors which influence development at puberty.

Sections 4-5 introduce hormones and the role they play during puberty. These sections also cover menstruation from both a physical and psychological viewpoint.

Sections 6-8 focus on the experience of puberty, and how physical changes can affect self-image and self-esteem. These sections review some of the healthy ways to improve self-esteem, and the harmful things people do to their bodies, including drug use and extreme dieting, primarily from the perspective of why it happens, and how you can spot and help someone in trouble.

Why Teach This Unit?

  • 56% of women and 73% of men today have inter-course before age 18.
  • One million teenage women become pregnant each year.
  • 24% of teenage mothers have a second child within 24 months.

“Teen pregnancy is off the charts and AIDS, too. Children are dying. Right there that should move you to want to do something, and we weren't doing anything. We felt strongly that teaching about reproduction and contraception and issues in sexuality had to be done.”

-Teachers from East Lyme School, Connecticut

How our bodies work could not be a more real concern to each of us, at almost any age. It is of special interest to young adolescents who face a physical transformation at a psychologically vulnerable age. They need information to learn about themselves, how they fit in with their peers, and where they fit in with the world.

This unit relates directly to the daily lives of young adolescents, and it will help them:

  • accumulate relevant knowledge about the changes occurring in their own bodies;
  • make good decisions about their physical and mental well being;
  • learn more about others to develop sensitivity; and
  • stay healthy.

Summary Questions for the Unit

If you have a question about your body, what is normal, or how you feel about puberty's changes, whom can you talk to?

Answer: Every student needs to know that their questions should be asked and that the re are people who will answer them honestly and openly. Parents, other siblings, extended family members, teachers, health professionals, church leaders, teen clinics, hotlines, etc. are all resources.

What are some healthy, natural ways, to improve your health and feel better about yourself?

Answer: Exercise, sleep, good eating habits, understanding your body, knowing you have someone to talk to, involvement in groups or clubs with people who have similar interests, setting and reaching goals, helping others, etc. all contribute to positive self-esteem.

What does it mean to be normal? Who decides? Does “normal” change? How, why, and when? Does it matter? Why? What are some strategies for improving self-esteem if you are different? Why is it easier to say than do?

Answer: Normal is a function of both relative perspective and statistical averages. One is culturally based. The other is based on biological processes. Normal, as a cultural phenomenon, is influenced by the “agents for change” such as TV, print media, and movies. Going against any trend at any age is difficult-those who know themselves and want the best for themselves and have self confidence will have an easier time defining normal for themselves.

How will puberty affect you?

Answer: Change is OK, but it requires some adaptation. Part of adapting to puberty is pulling together all the emotional, physical, and social developments into a functioning human being. Gaining knowledge and developing sensitivity to others will help put puberty in perspective.

What are the consequences of unhealthy behaviors during adolescence?

Answer: Long-lasting problems can stem from inappropriate physical, social, or psychological adaptations to development. Drug and alcohol abuse, eating disorders, pregnancy, and deviant behavior are all symptoms of potential development problems.

Unit Activities and Key Ideas
Section Key Ideas Activity

1 Growth, Development, and Puberty

How does your body change during puberty and how does it feel to go through it?

  • Growth refers to an increase in size. Development refers not only to growth, but also a change in function. Chronological age and developmental age are not always the same for everyone. Each person matures at his or her own rate-normal development can occur over a broad range of ages.
  • In the human life cycle, puberty is the physical transition from childhood to adulthood, from reproductive immaturity to maturity. Adolescence refers to psychological and social development.
  • Puberty can be a time of confusing emotions and changes, complicated by comparing oneself to one's peers. Differences between peers can be misinterpreted as abnormalities and can create stress.

Mini Activity: Puberty Brain storm

Activity 1-1: You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby

Mini Activity: Prove It!

Mini Activity: Describing Puberty

Activity 1-2: Examining Differences

2 Growth of the Body

What changes of puberty do both boys and girls experience?

  • Physical growth and development are a function of two factors-heredity and environment.
  • During puberty, height and weight increase, muscles develop, and the body assumes new proportions of fat and muscle, depending on gender, nutrition, and heredity.
  • There are a number of common health concerns during puberty. Among the most common are acne and good nutrition. Regular visits to the doctor and learning about what happens to your body during puberty will help you stay healthy.
Activity 2-1: How Tall?

3 Sexual Maturation

What changes should girls and boys expect?

  • Sexual maturation involves two kinds of change-primary and secondary, Primary changes affects reproductive organs. Secondary changes affect characteristics which set girls apart from boys and the physically mature from the immature.
  • Menarche is the key transitional step to womanhood. However, it does not mark the beginning of puberty. Typically it is one of the later events, usually about two years after the beginning of breast development and after the peak of the growth spurt (avg. age = 12.8, normal range, 9-18). Menopause marks the end of a woman's reproductive years.
  • Nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) or ejaculation with masturbation signal semen production.
  • Heredity and environment, which includes both physical and social environment, determine not only our schedule of development, but also our lifelong health. Nutrition and health care have the greatest impact on our reproductive health.

Mini Activity: Word Origin: Menarche

Activity 3-1: Changes in Girls during Puberty

Activity 3-2: Changes in Boys during Puberty

Activity 3-3: Knowing about Each Other

Activity 3-4: Factors Influencing Puberty

4 Hormones and Puberty

What are hormones and what do they do?

  • Hormones, chemical substances which come from endocrine glands, are released in the bloodstream where specific receptors on target cells pick them up as needed; hormones and cell receptors work like a lock and key.
  • The hypothalamus and pituitary glands control the body's reproductive system and its functions through the release of gonadotropins, FSH and LH, which in the female cause the production of estrogens and progesterone, and in the male, androgens, primarily testosterone.
  • In the female, estrogens and progesterone work in a cycle to maintain the lining of the uterus and sustain pregnancy. Testosterone sustains sperm production in males and helps build muscle in both males and females.
  • The hypothalamus works as a thermostat for the body's hormone system-it helps control levels of hormones in the body through a negative feedback system.

Mini Activity: Word Origin: Endocrine, Exocrine

Activity 4-1: Glands and Hormones

Mini Activity: Social Feedback

Activity 4-2: All That Happens at Puberty

5 The Menstrual Cycle

How does the menstrual cycle work?

  • The pituitary gland produces gonadotropins (FSH and LH) resulting in two cycles-the ovarian cycle which involves egg maturation and release and the menstrual cycle which prepares the uterus every month for possible implantation.
  • While boys produce a steady supply of sperm through their adult lives, women are born with a finite number of eggs, only a fraction of which ever mature between puberty and menopause.
  • Menarche is a girl's first period. Her periods may be irregular for a while, but then settle down to a fairly predictable cycle-about 28 days in length, with each period lasting 2-7 days.
  • Menstruation may cause some discomfort through cramping or premenstrual syndrome, both of which can be managed through diet, exercise, or mild medical treatment.

Mini Activity: How Thick Is the Uterine Lining?

Activity 5-1: How Does the Menstrual Cycle Work?

6 Gender Identity and Body Image

How do you see yourself physically and psychologically?

  • Gender identity and gender role result from two sources-biology and culture-and affect one's identity at all levels and ages.
  • Hormones contribute to feelings of aggression and emotional expression (moodiness) in humans and other animals. It is difficult to separate biological, social, and cultural differences in behavior.
  • Puberty brings physical, emotional, and self-concept changes. We adapt to change to maintain a constant sense of self and identity.
  • The changes of puberty can create self-consciousness and uncertainty about oneself. Being either a fast or a slow maturer can create both social advantages and disadvantages, which even out by late adolescence.

Activity 6-1: Gender Differences

Mini Activity: Debate!

Mini Activity: Who Says So?

Mini Activity: It's ever Too Late

Activity 6-2: Behavior Differences

Mini Activity: Changes Happen Around You, Too

Activity 6-3: Who Me-Worry?

7 Harmful Ways of Changing Yourself

Why do some adolescents handle stress in such unhealthy ways?

  • Cultural ideals of beauty (among other things) create a lot of stress for young adolescents whose bodies are rapidly changing.
  • Anorexia nervosa, which is characterized by excessive activity and excessive dieting, and bulimia, which is characterized by bingeing and purging, are common eating disorders among women (although some adolescent boys can become obsessed with weight, as well).
  • Steroid abuse occurs more often with boys, but can happen among girls as well. As with eating disorders, it reflects poor self-esteem, and an unhealthy obsession with body image.

Mini Activity: How Can You Get Your Friends to Eat Healthily, Too?

Activity 7-1: What Is Attractiveness?

8 Feeling Good about Yourself

How do you develop positive self-esteem?

  • Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. It comes from your feelings about your attractiveness, body, accomplishments, personality, values, social interactions, family, ethnicity, talents, and interests.
  • Puberty can be a challenging time of life, and sometimes it is hard to feel good about yourself. Improving self-esteem doesn't just happen. You have to work at it, by choosing positive activities or setting some goals to work on.
  • Keeping your body looking and feeling its best through exercise, nutrition, and good health habits will help build self-esteem and a stronger sense of identity, which will in turn help you cope with the challenges of puberty.

Mini Activity: How Does What You Eat Make You Feel?

Mini Activity: Who Are You?

Mini Activity: Beauty from the Inside

Mini Activity: The Messages You Send

Activity 8-1: Healthy Bodies and Feeling Good

Mini Activity: I Like Myself Because . . .

Mini Activity: I'm Not Crazy About . . .

Mini Activity: Next Time I'll . . .

Activity 8-2: What Makes You Special?

Teacher's Guide Overview

The Your Changing Body unit is built around a variety 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 students' 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 the 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 who are working in teams do 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. 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 TE page 109. The specific GroupWork Activities for this unit can be found on TE page 112.


The research and action projects in HumBio are varied and provide students with time to explore a particular topic in depth. With Projects, students have the opportunity to take a position based on knowledge gained through research, debate an issue, and devise a plan of action. In this way, students can apply what they are learning to larger issues in the world around them.

Projects for this unit include

  • Research Questions
  • Multicultural Perspectives: Issues of Puberty and Adolescence

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 through student-centered activities are the foundation of the Human Biology Program. The unit is rich with relevant 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
  • Mini Activities
  • GroupWork
  • Projects

Describing Puberty Write down three words that describe puberty and adolescence and pass them in. The teacher will put them up on a board so your class can discuss them. Now create a poem, picture, or a paragraph using the words and concepts discussed.

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 presentation.


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 throughout 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 three What Do You Think? questions.
  • An analysts of the student's two favorite Activities and how those activities helped the student understand an important concept.
  • Written responses to one Apply Your Knowledge question from each section.
  • Two examples of written reports from library research.
  • An analysis or interpretation of graphs.
  • One example of an artistic creation.

Getting Started

Address Sensitive Material. This unit covers sensitive issues of puberty. 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, trust will need to be established first to ensure an open dialogue.

One of the first things you might start off with is a discussion of why the subject causes so much embarrassment and shyness.

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.

Establish Ground Rules for Discussion. Since some of the issues investigated within this unit are not easily or comfortably addressed, one way to make yourself and your students comfortable is to establish some ground rules for discussions, such as:

  • respect the thoughts of others,
  • show maturity,
  • no teasing, no insults or “put-downs,”
  • respect for confidentiality,
  • grant the “right to pass,”
  • listen and respond with empathy, and
  • any other ground rules you feel are appropriate.

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. 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 Matrix on page and in the Activity Index on page 153. 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 145.

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 148 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.

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.

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 that can vary if some activities are done at home or in other classes in addition to science class.

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 the charts refer to the student edition.

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

Read Section 1

Introduce Activity 1-1: You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby (bring pictures Wed.)

Do Activity 1-2: Examining Differences

Read Section 2

Do Activity 2-1: How Tall?

Read Section 3 up to Activity 3-1

Do Activity 3-1: Changes in Girls during Puberty (collect pictures for Activity 1-1)

Read Section 3 up to Activity 3-2

Do Activity 3-2: Changes in Boys during Puberty (display pictures for Activity 1-1 students begin guessing)

Complete Activity 1-1

Finish Section 3

Do Activity 3-3: Knowing about Each Other or Activity 3-4: Factors Influencing Puberty

Week 2

Read Section 4 up to Activity 4-1

Do Activity 4-1: Glands and Hormones

Finish Section 4

Do Activity 4-2: All That Happens at Puberty

Read Section 5 up to Activity 5-1

Do Activity 5-1: How Does the Menstrual Cycle Work?

Finish Section 5

Read Section 6 through Activity 6-1

Do Activity 6-1: Gender Differences
Week 3

Read section 6 through 6-2

Do Activity 6-2: Behavior Differences

Finish section 6

Do Activity 6-3: Who Me-Worry?

Read Section 7

Do Activity 7-1: What Is Attractiveness?

Read Section 8

Activity 8-1: Healthy Bodies and Feeling Good

End with Activity 8-2: What Makes You Special?
Option 2: Five Week Timeline
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Week 1

Read Section 1

Introduce Activity 1-1: You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby (bring pictures Wed.)

Do Activity 1-2: Examining Differences

Read Section 2

Do Activity 2-1: How Tall? (collect pictures for Activity 1-1)

Read Section 3 up to Activity 3-1

Do Activity 3-1: Changes in Girls during Puberty

Explain Project choices #1 or #2 to students Begin guessing on Activity 1-1: You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby
Week 2

Read Section 3 up to Activity 3-2

Do Activity 3-2: Changes in Boys during Puberty (students turn in guesses for 1-1)

Finish Section 3

Do Activity 3-3: Knowing about Each Other or Activity 3-4: Factors Influencing Puberty

Read Section 4 up to Activity 4-1

Do Activity 4-1: Glands and Hormones

Finish Section 4

Do Activity 4-2: All That Happens at Puberty

Project Day: allow students time to work
Week 3

Read Section 5 up to Activity 5-1

Do Activity 5-1: How Does the Menstrual Cycle Work?

Finish Section 5

Mini Activity

Day: Choose the mini activity you like best from the unit, or allow the students to choose

Read Section 6 through Activity 6-1

Do Activity 6-1: Gender Differences

Project Day: allow students time to work
Week 4

Read Section 6 up through Activity 6-2

Do Activity 6-2: Behavior Differences

Finish section 6

Do Activity 6-3: Who Me-Worry?

Read Section 7

Do Activity 7-1: What Is Attractiveness?

Share Projects Share Projects
Week 5 Read Section 7 Continue Activity 7-1

Read Section 8

Begin Activity 8-1: Healthy Bodies and Feeling Good

Share Activity 8-1 Activity 8-2: What Makes You Special?

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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