A Liverpool eighth grader remains in the hospital and an investigation is launched following an accident in science class. An explosion during an experiment at Soule Road Middle School Thursday burned a teacher and three students. As our Kat De Maria tells us, demonstrations are a risky but popular part of chemistry class and many involve methanol, the chemical involved in the Liverpool incident.
LIVERPOOL, N.Y. -- Thinking back on your high school chemistry class, you may remember lots of demonstrations, some with explosions or fire.
"It's oftentimes a very dry subject, chemistry by itself. We have a lot of mathematics and pictures in books. But they don't come to life unless you can actually carry out experiments and demonstrations and see them," said Mark Braiman, a chemistry professor at Syracuse University.
Braiman, who showed us an experiment he uses in intro classes at SU, says he remembers his early days in science: Distilling methanol in eighth grade.
Methanol is apparently what students of the same age were learning about at Soule Road Middle School in Liverpool Thursday when, as the district's superintendent says, something "went horribly, horribly wrong." An explosion burned the teacher and three students.
"There was a crush to get out of the room. And one of the students was burning at that time," Dr. Richard Johns said.
What happened in Liverpool is now the subject of an investigation and as such, the superintendent wouldn't go into details about the experiment itself. But we're told methanol is a common, readily available liquid known to be used in middle, high school and college labs.
"Methanol is wood alcohol. It's been known for hundreds of years," Braiman said.
Johns says Liverpool's science curriculum includes experiments. And apparently the one conducted Thursday was not an unusual one.
"I've spoken to the teacher. And he's frankly a bit perplexed by how exactly this occurred. And we'll just have to wait and see what our experts tell us and obviously do whatever we need to do so that nothing like this happens again," Johns said.
Balancing safety with enthusiasm and appreciation for chemistry and science.
Liverpool's superintendent says the state fire marshal and Onondaga County Sheriff's office are investigating the Soule Road Middle School incident.