By Ken Roy
Posted on 2022-10-03
Safety plays a critical role in our daily lives. From the equipment we use in our kitchen to the advanced safety features in our vehicles, safety is a core consideration in every scientific discovery, and technological and engineering innovation. Safety is also an enduring concept, one that has been a vital component of early manual arts and science programs to present-day design-based STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) instruction in laboratories, makerspaces, Fabrication Labs (Fab Labs), libraries, community centers, and outdoor education programs (Love and Roy 2022).
In May 2022, the book Safer Engineering and CTE Instruction: A National STEM Education Imperative: What the Data Tells Us was published; it was based on a research study conducted by Tyler S. Love (Penn State University, Harrisburg) and Kenneth Russell Roy (NSTA Chief Science Safety Advisor). This book is now available in a free downloadable PDF format. (See the last paragraph for instructions for accessing it.)
The study’s findings are presented according to regional and national averages reflecting safety factors, safety characteristics of facilities, and instructor and student safety practices relative to STEM and Career and Technical Education (CTE) learning spaces. The book’s purpose in part was to raise levels of awareness about the need to improve and/or adopt updated STEM and CTE safety policies and practices for a safer teaching and learning experience. In addition, the book supports critical information inquiries for necessary safety resources needed by professional education associations, state education departments, teacher preparation programs, administrators, school districts, teachers, and others (e.g., community makerspaces). In this way, this blog post’s purpose is to briefly introduce some of the key findings from the study and include a limited discussion.
Before the findings are presented, it is important that the readers understand the term STEM within the context of the study. STEM is used in reference to science, technology and engineering (T&E), CTE, and integrated STEM activities, which could include observations, hands-on investigations, explorations, demonstrations, and/or field activities and investigations. These activities could encompass crosscutting teaching and learning opportunities that integrate concepts from additional content areas (mathematics, the arts, etc.). STEM education safety is applicable across science, T&E, CTE, and other content areas involving scientific inquiry, engineering design, science and engineering practices, problem-based learning, design-based learning, and career and college readiness (Love and Roy 2022, p. 10).
The study revealed many findings that teachers, supervisors/administrators, state departments of education, teacher educators, and others need to be aware of and address. The following were among some study results that had the most alarming safety statistics and are well worth highlighting.
Given the critical need to address safety in STEM, CTE, and other school lab/makerspace areas where science and engineering instruction occurs, the authors in collaboration with ITEEA (International Technology and Engineering Educators Association), NSELA (National Science Education Leadership Association), and ASEE (American Society for Engineering Education) have published this book in a free downloadable PDF format. The book provides practitioner-focused recommendations on how to better protect teachers, supervisors, and administrators from legal entanglements by proactively addressing potential safety hazards and resulting risk assessments and implementing appropriate safety actions.
In addition to the book being shared on the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), NSELA, and MIT’s Edgerton Center K–12 Makerspace Resources web pages, it is also indexed in the ERIC database by the U.S. Department of Education. When visiting https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED620339, click on the Direct Link icon in the upper-right corner to access the link for downloading the free book.
The authors thank ITEEA for ensuring this was a free resource so teachers and their supervisors/administrators can easily access the book and use it to address the alarming status of safety in our school STEM labs, CTE labs, and makerspaces.
Submit questions regarding safety to Ken Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.
NSTA Chief Safety Blogger Dr. Ken Roy wishes to sincerely thank nationally/internationally recognized technology education and engineering safety specialist Dr. Tyler Love (assistant professor of Elementary/Middle Grades STEM Education at Penn State University’s Capital Campus in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania) for his professional review of and contributions to this commentary.
Love, T. S., and K. R. Roy. 2022. Safer engineering and CTE instruction: A national STEM education imperative. What the data tells us. Reston, VA: International Technology and Engineering Educators Association. https://www.iteea.org/SafetyReport.aspx.