2016 Awardees for ACS-CEI Incorporation of Sustainability into Chemistry Education
In collaboration with faculty from Stony Brook University’s Sustainability Studies program, over the past several years I have developed and implemented two sets of guided inquiry activities connecting chemistry to issues of sustainability: one is for an intermediate level chemistry course, the other for a nonscience majors’ chemistry course. These focus on the chemistry of environmental degradation, energy production, and pollution prevention and abatement, but also make connections to other domains of sustainability- social, economic, and cultural. A significant project-based component, focusing on the use of algal turf scrubbers to prevent and/or remediate nutrient-rich coastal waters, has been introduced to an environmental chemistry laboratory course. We have also developed and offered a series of field trips for high school students connecting chemistry to issues of sustainability.
The conventional definition of sustainability involves meeting the needs of current society without compromising the needs of future generations. In chemistry, this is deeply interconnected with toxicological concerns, yet no institution requires knowledge of toxicology for their chemistry degrees. At South Dakota State University, we use a modified 1-2-1 curriculum for our chemistry and biochemistry majors, as well as Honors students, where students begin their organic chemistry curriculum in the second semester. We have been including discussions of toxicology fundamentals in the first organic course, covering topics including exposure, dose-response, toxicodynamics, and toxicokinetics. In laboratory, students assayed the hepatotoxicity of vitamins and will continue with the use of a brine shrimp assay following a synthesis and an EPI Suite database exercise in the subsequent organic course. These activities will allow us to transform our elective toxicology course to focus on a mechanistic approach, and modify the analytical and environmental courses.
Colby College, Department of Chemistry
Teaching chemistry through feedstocks, process and products; a green chemistry
framework accessible to K12 students, undergraduates and the general public.
The need for a current and future workforce with an understanding of sustainability drives efforts for Green Chemistry education at Colby for K12, undergraduate, and public audiences. A team of undergraduates working as Beyond Benign Fellows developed a series of green chemistry themed activities and demonstrations—bioplastics from lobster shells, visualization of recyclable catalysts, and metrics with legos—and animated them for various audiences. In addition to these outreach opportunities, we provide an upper level undergraduate Green Chemistry course and a less advanced module for prematriculation students from underrepresented groups in the sciences with the hopes of increasing recruitment and retention of these students, as well as providing excellent opportunities for Green Chemistry laboratory research. We also publish a series of sustainable chemistry themed newspaper articles for the public. To effectively reach this range of audiences, we approach green chemistry education through the simple framework of feedstocks, process and products.
Over the past several years, the Midland Section Kids and Chemistry (K&C) group has demonstrated commitment to sustainability through many local education-related efforts. Recycling lessons have been part of a middle school program with Delta College as well as mall activities; hands-on events about seeds, water purification and greenhouse gases have been offered in school science classes. Earth Day festivities always feature sustainability topics, and in 2015 included seminars on urban sustainability, marine debris, and public health crises, in addition to educational interactive activities on the 3Rs and renewable energy. Through an ACS sustainability grant, two community gardens were tended and a greenhouse of recycled bottles was constructed this summer; these experiences have included many "teachable moments." K&C volunteers strive to help our community understand environmental and social challenges, and enable their resolution, using a variety of program formats and targeting K-12 students as well as the general public.
I have used a multi-faceted approach to incorporate sustainability in undergraduate chemistry curriculum at Millersville University of Pennsylvania. Key to this effort is revamping of two environmental chemistry courses to include topics on sustainability. Working with students, I developed new laboratory experiments and adapted published ones to the microscale, resulting in four articles published in the Journal of Chemical Education and elsewhere. I have engaged students in sustainability studies through internships, field trips, research and successful placement in sustainability focused Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs). Other collaborative efforts include development of an environmental chemistry minor, an interdisciplinary minor in environmental science and organizing a symposium for an on campus international conference themed “Stewards of Sustainability”. I have introduced aspects of sustainability in general chemistry courses that I teach and contributed a book chapter on sustainability.