MAPLE GROVE, Minn. -- They are classroom science experiments that make you go "wow."
"I would never do it, never, under any circumstances," said Ed Hessler, the Executive Secretary of the Minnesota Science Teachers Association and Hamline professor.
Hessler's comment comes afterfour students were burned in an experiment with methanol triggered an explosion in the classroom at Maple Grove Junior High School on Thursday December 1. Three of the kids were treated and released from Hennepin County Medical Center, while 15-year-oldDane Neuberger suffered severe burns to his face.
Although Hessler speaks only for himself, he says methanol experiments are just too dangerous for the classroom. "Methanol is very flammable. It burns with a flame you can't see."
All you have to do is a simple search online to find a long list of dangerous science experiments in the classroom. What you won't find online is an organization that oversees those types of experiments in the state of Minnesota. That's because there is none.
"It would probably be easier for teachers, because most teachers look for guidance," said Hessler.
But because Minnesota is a local control state, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Education(MDE) said, "there is no authority in the statute giving MDE authority over curriculum or school policy."
However, both the state and the national science teachers association give recommendations on laboratory safety, including one that reads, "develop and implement comprehensive safety policies."
But, the Osseo School District, where the December 1 accident happened, doesn't even have a policy on the books for staff to follow, according to a school spokesperson. They do, however have one for their students.
Jeff Knight knows all too well the pain Dane Neuberger is facing. More than 30 years ago, he was severely injured in a science demonstration at Minnetonka East Middle School. He suffered second degree burns to his face after a gallon of methyl alcohol exploded near his face.
"It was kind of shocking to hear that it happened again," said Knight. "My eyes were burned. The first layer of skin was burned off my eyes and they actually bandaged up my eyes."
Knight made a full recovery. Even so, he and others wonder if more can be done to prevent an accident from happening again.
"There's no question demonstrations are flashy and a lot of fun, but there's a lot question on what you learn from them," said Hessler.
The Osseo School District is doing a full curriculum audit on all science experiments and demonstrations to make sure an accident doesn't happen again. The district has also temporarily suspended experiments involving methanol.
The science teacher, Matthew Achor, remains on paid leave while the district investigates the case.