Safety 3-Card Monte

Card Trick


This deck of cards is a great way to incorporate a little fun and a little magic into your lessons on laboratory safety. Students will be amazed to see that their teacher can perform magic and will always remember the lesson they just learned about laboratory safety and what is expected of the Ace students in science. This is a beginner-level magic trick that requires no sleight-of-hand. However, practicing the procedure will ensure that the magic behind the card trick is not revealed.


  • Safety
  • Observation
  • Discrepant event


“Safety 3-Card Monte” Card Deck
*Materials included in kit.

Safety Precautions

Although the materials in this demonstration are considered nonhazardous, please observe all normal laboratory safety guidelines.


The Safety 3-Card Monte deck is reusable and should be stored for future use.


  1. Lay out the three cards—out of the view of the students.
  2. The “gimmick” card should be on the left. This is the Joker with a “half” Ace card attached to form a flap.
  3. Insert the “message” card with safety rules under the flap so that the top edge of the message card is lined-up with the top edge of the Ace as shown in Figure 1.
  4. Place the standard playing card Joker over the right half of the flap. The Joker should overlap the right edge of the flap by approximately 1 cm—no writing on the message card should be visible.
  5. Spread the cards out so it looks as if there are only three cards present. Refer to Figure 2 for an example.
  6. Hold the cards in your hand between the thumb and index finger. Make sure that the edge where the message card extends below the flap on the gimmick card is covered by your thumb or finger. Use care not to let the cards slip as you talk to the students.
  7. Now, talk to the students about the safety rules or safety contract. Use the cards as a prop to explain what a “Joker” would do versus an “Ace” student.
  8. Remind the students that they must be “SMART” to be an “Ace” student—use the following patter: “‘Jokers’ get in lots of trouble because they ignore the safety rules.” “Horseplay, mischief and not following the rules that provide a safe environment for themselves and others are never tolerated in the science classroom or laboratory.” “So, what is the secret of the ‘Ace’ student?”
  9. At this point, turn the cards over so that the backs face the students. Select a student to draw the Ace (the middle card) from the deck and ask him to reveal the secret of the Ace student to the class. Instead of an Ace being pulled from the deck, the students will pull the message card. The ace “magically” turned into a message card. The student should read the safety information printed on the card. Refer to Figure 3.
  10. With the backs of the cards still facing the students, move the standard playing card Joker over the gimmick card to cover the Ace flap.
  11. Turn the two cards over so the students see that only the Jokers were left behind in the teacher’s hand.
  12. Use the acronym on the message card to explain to the students that “The ‘Ace’ student was SMART because he followed the safety rules printed on the card.” “Be SMART in the science classroom/laboratory and you too can be an ‘Ace’ student.”
  13. Do not forget to collect the message card for the next class or for storage.

Teacher Tips

  • Be creative—write your own patter or make your own message card to cover lab techniques, chemical properties, etc.
  • Make up a story or scenario that fits with the classs personality.
  • Use this activity as a discrepant event. Challenge the students to figure out the magic behind the trick. Answer Yes and No questions only until they discover that the message card rests under a flap on the gimmick Joker card.

Next Generation Science Standards and NGSS are registered trademarks of Achieve. Neither Achieve nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of this product, and do not endorse it.