Jenny Olander is the Director of the Chemistry Teacher Resource Center (KRC).
Mathematics not technology
Swedish chemistry teachers receive support from their European colleagues to promote chemical safety in school. The new website will be a support for both teachers and school leaders.
Now we hope teachers will dare to do more labs, says Jenny Olander, director of the Chemistry Teachers Resource Center (KRC).
Legislation, risk assessment and procedures for working with chemicals in teaching are among the areas covered by the new website Chemical safety in science education Take up.
Each text was developed by people from at least two different countries, says Jenny Olander, director of the Chemistry Teachers Resource Center (KRC) at Stockholm University. KRC advises on chemical safety issues and supports chemistry teachers across Sweden, both in primary and secondary schools.
The information is intended for chemistry teachers and other teachers in scientific subjects in which chemicals are used. School principals and teacher trainers also belong to the target group.
The same difficulties in many countries
The site is the result of an EU project in which Sweden participated along with Finland, Norway and Slovenia. The project came about after Jenny Olander and her colleagues at the KRC approached colleagues in Finland and Norway to learn more about how the two neighboring countries are doing on chemical safety and what support for educators looks like there.
– We have seen that we are all working with the same difficulties and that is why we sought funds for a joint EU project.
On the website, for example, you can read that the purpose of a risk assessment is to think about the potential risks associated with an activity. There is also advice on measures that should be taken to reduce risks and avoid accidents.
To ensure that the site is of high quality, the Association for Science Education (ASE) has reviewed content. Those involved in the project also held a number of meetings with representatives of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), to obtain assistance in how chemical legislation should be interpreted for the school’s operations. National reference groups with teachers have also been linked to the project.
How good is chemical safety in Swedish schools?
– I’d say it’s a good thing, accidents rarely happen. “But I would like more teachers, with the support of the website, to dare to do more labs,” says Jenny Olander.
It has technical staff in some countries
In some other European countries, for example Great Britain, it is common for schools to have technical staff to support the teaching of chemistry and other science subjects. Teachers get help producing the equipment they need for the lab. The technician also assists in risk assessment of chemicals, for example. Technical staff is also present in some of the larger schools in Sweden, but this is a rarity.
It will be difficult to introduce laboratory technologies in all our schools, as it requires a lot of resources. On the other hand, I believe that the person at school who is tasked with organizing laboratory equipment and handling chemicals should properly allocate time and resources to carry out tasks, says Jenny Olander.
Another challenge is that there is no common policy in Sweden regarding basic equipment and chemicals needed for a school to obtain a license to conduct chemistry education.
– It’s something we at KRC want to work on, says Jenny Olander.
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