Experiences with Experiments Gone Wrong

Safety First: Science teacher Mary Fredell concentrates as she helps juniors Hailey Laplow and Chassadee Winters in Chemistry students out with completing their lab. Safety is one of the main priorities in the lab to prevent dangerous mistakes from happening. All of the students are required to wear goggles and aprons in the lab. Photo by Eline Ferket
Safety First: Science teacher Mary Fredell concentrates as she helps juniors Hailey Laplow and Chassadee Winters in Chemistry students out with completing their lab. Safety is one of the main priorities in the lab to prevent dangerous mistakes from happening. All of the students are required to wear goggles and aprons in the lab. Photo by Eline Ferket

DHS offers a large variety of science classes including biology, chemistry, geoscience, physics and human anatomy & physiology. In class, the students are required to do a variety of different labs, and more often than not, science experiments at DHS are completely safe and never go dangerously wrong. But the science teachers at DHS have had some interesting experiences with science experiments that went completely wrong. Mary Fredell, a retiring chemistry teacher, has countless memories of her many years of teaching chemistry at DHS. Although it rarely happens, sometimes the experiments and demonstrations she does in class go wrong.

“I don’t think accidents are very funny, but students always enjoy when you’re doing a demonstration in class and something goes wrong,” Fredell said.

Safety in the lab is extremely important, and students are educated on the first day of class about the safety measures that they have to take in the lab. Before labs, Fredell usually does a pre-lab in which she gives the students the information necessary for the lab. These pre-labs involve demonstrations, explanations, and very rarely, something unexpected happens. “In my early years of teaching I did a demonstration of potassium hydroxide in water, and I used to do it under a document camera and it exploded out of the beaker and stuck to the lens,” Fredell said. In the labs the students are working with chemicals, so Fredell really emphasizes about safety measures in the lab. Students are always required to wear safety goggles and an apron.

“Incidences in the lab are more scary to me,” Fredell said. “Several years ago, in AP Chemistry we tend to do college level labs and the students were working with concentrated nitric acid and in the first two minutes of the lab one of the students had it on her hands. But she did the right thing and washed it off right away. Within five minutes of that, a kid tripped and spilled the concentrated nitric acid all over the bench top.” This was one of the more dangerous experiences she’s had working with kids in the lab.

Fredell isn’t the only science teacher at DHS to have had one of her demonstrations fall through. Thomas McNamara, the IB Physics teacher, also has an abundancy of experiences of experiments and demonstrations that backfired on him.

“I was once melted a piece of metal to show the difference between the specific heat of water and metal and I didn’t anticipate that the metal would melt by the time I got to the demonstration,” McNamara said.

Just like Fredell, McNamara points out the safety measures that have to be taken in the lab to avoid dangerous situations.

“Some of my experiences with students really woke me up to how important it is to take safety measures,” McNamara said.

By: Eline Ferket

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