Workspace Calculations

Welcome to chemistry class!  When most students think of chemistry class, they think of something they’ve seen on TV or in the movies: specifically potions and explosions.  Our first piece of work this year is intended to drive home the point that we take lab safety incredibly seriously – there will be no potions or explosions in our lab space.  However, accidents are far more likely to occur in lab spaces that are overcrowded, and our work will be to determine where our lab space falls on the scale of safe to unsafe as determined by the number of students in the class and the square footage available to each student.

The assignment consists of two parts.  Part 1 involves an activity where students work together to sketch the lab, take measurements of the space, and calculate the square footage per student. An example of a floor plan drawn by one group of students is shown below.

Lab Floor Plan

This same group of students measured the interior walls of the classroom to be 307″ x 544″ (25.6′ x 45.3′) for a gross square footage of approximately 1160 sq ft.  After subtracting out the square footage of the immovable structures in the room, the net square footage was found to be 726 square feet.  The net square footage represents all of the available floor space in the classroom for all students to move safely about during a lab.  To calculate the square footage available for each student, one must divide the net square footage by how many students are in the class:

  • Period 2: 726 square feet / 26 students = 28 square feet per student
  • Period 3: 726 square feet / 27 students = 27 square feet per student
  • Period 4: 726 square feet / 26 students = 28 square feet per student
  • Period 5: 726 square feet / 21 students = 35 square feet per student
  • Period 6: 726 square feet / 28 students = 26 square feet per student

For Part 2, students will locate and describe the use of lab safety equipment, then write up their findings from Part 1 in the context of the article Overcrowding in the Instructional Space written by the NSTA Safety Advisory Board.  Ultimately, we will come away with a student-driven list of recommendations to ensure safety in our lab given the constraints (things we are unable to change).  Students who complete the assignment early (due Monday) will make lab safety posters which will be posted around the lab space.

Before the end of class on Friday, students will receive two copies each of the class syllabus and the student safety contract (all signed by student and guardian, one copy of each turned in to the teacher by next Friday, September 14, and the other kept in the student’s chemistry folder), and a copy of the letter home to families of chemistry students.

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