Tips to Ensure Your Students are Safe in the K-12 Art Classroom
Regardless of the grade level, all art instructors have a responsibility to make sure their classroom provides a safe learning environment for all students. To make sure their classroom is free from all hazards, art instructors must take a thorough inventory of all of their classroom conditions. Such conditions can be categorized as general classroom conditions, practices and instructional methods, age and risk groups, and materials and activities. These conditions are described in greater detail below.
Overall Condition of the Classroom
First, the instructor must establish some baseline rules for the classroom to keep it safe and free from hazards. This includes:
1) no eating, drinking, or chewing gum in the classroom.
2) always wash your hands after working.
3) wipe up all spills immediately.
4) use all equipment and supplies carefully and responsibly.
The instructor should also make sure there is adequate ventilation, whether it be in the form of a building ventilation system or windows that can be opened (preferably both), and adequate lighting, either artificial or natural (again, preferably both). Signs should be posted around the classroom reinforcing safety rules. Finally, the art instructor must check to see if all materials and supplies are securely placed on the shelves and are not in danger of falling off, and that all supply cabinets, containers, drawers, and the like are labeled clearly.
The instructor must set a good example when demonstrating proper use of materials and supplies, and should always include health and safety issues when giving lesson presentations and during general classroom instruction. This includes demonstrating safety procedures, wearing any necessary protective gear, and modeling a proper dress code when necessary, such as keeping long hair tied back, refraining from wearing loose clothing and dangling jewelry, and wearing a smock.
The instructor must also make sure the students are aware of their responsibilities regarding proper use of materials and supplies, how they are expected to handle potentially hazardous materials, and proper methods of handling and putting away tools and supplies. Last, but not least, there should be a classroom management system in place that allows the instructor to monitor the students effectively.
The art instructor should be aware of any chemical sensitivities, allergies, or respiratory problems that can arise from using certain materials. In addition, the instructor should confer with the school nurse to get information on school procedures in the event a student accidentally ingests a particular substance, or has an allergic reaction. The instructor should try to find out as much as he or she can about individual students’ chemical sensitivities or allergies, and keep a first-aid kit in full view on a wall in the classroom. If possible, the instructor should also check the students for exposed cuts or sores on their hands and arms, and make provisions for these students if necessary.
Materials, Supplies, and Activities
It goes without saying that the art instructor must evaluate their classroom projects and activities to make sure they have done everything necessary to minimize any potential problems and taken all safety issues into account. The art instructor must also create or check any available lists of acceptable art and craft materials, remain up to date on public notices of art hazards, and keep a complete inventory (which should be updated yearly, at minimum) of all art materials in the room. The instructor may consider having students help with this inventory by assigning them “safety inspector” tasks if they have finished all their projects and are in need of something productive to do.