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Through Green Chemistry Connections, a series of virtual gatherings of the green chemistry community, Beyond Benign aims to foster networking and resource sharing, to encourage and support the teaching of green chemistry, and to demonstrate the multitude of ways green chemistry can be implemented.
During the 2021-22 school year, Beyond Benign was proud to host its second year of Green Chemistry Connections, supported by Washington State Department of Ecology. Gathering the global green chemistry community in a bi-monthly virtual setting, Green Chemistry Connections webinars feature presentations centered around the GCC Student Learning Objectives — Green Chemistry theory, toxicology, laboratory skills, and application of Green Chemistry education — followed by small-group discussions with networking and resource sharing.
Each event includes up to four speakers — faculty, industry practitioners, and students — who are actively practicing Green Chemistry in their courses and/or laboratories. In alignment with our Diversity, Equity, Belonging and Respect initiatives, we spotlighted speakers from a variety of backgrounds, representing various types of universities from all around the world to demonstrate the multitude of ways green chemistry can be implemented. Of our 15 speakers, 40% were from the Black, Indiginous, People of Color (BIPOC) community, 80% were women, and 30% were women of color. We are thankful to our 15 speakers, listed below, who shared the work they’re doing at their institutions to further green chemistry education and practice.
The goal for the Green Chemistry Connection series is to foster networking and resource sharing to encourage and support the teaching of green chemistry. Throughout the series, we witnessed wonderful connections being made, with over 150 faculty, students and industry professionals attending and more than one-third attending two or more sessions. During the “BYOR – Bring your own resource” segment, 37 resources were shared among the community.
Ready to join the next event to connect with your peers? We’d love you to join us! We are kicking off the 2022-23 Series with a presentation by ChemForward on Sep 21, 2022. Register here for the series.
July 20, 2022Through Green Chemistry Connections, a series of virtual gatherings of the green chemistry community, Beyond Benign aims to foster networking and resource sharing, to encourage and support the teaching of [...]
Supporting the advancement of Black and Indigenous scientists is a critical part of creating the future of green chemistry and sustainable science. To work toward that goal, through support from the Lemelson Foundation, Beyond Benign recently teamed up with the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists & Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE) and Society for Science to host the Pathways to Sustainable Invention Speaker Series, a five-part webinar series designed to elevate the stories of inventors (including student inventors) from diverse backgrounds.
Through bimonthly webinars featuring a multi-generational panel of inventors sharing their experiences, the Pathways to Sustainable Invention series aimed to inspire youth to engage and invent for a sustainable future. Dr. T. Gregory Tucker, Ph.D., is a scientist, educator, entrepreneur and inventor who works at the University of Louisville. He helped design the event and was a panelist on the webinar topic, “Black Inventors Pathways to Patents.”
In this Q&A, Dr. Tucker shares some of his favorite takeaways from the series, and why he is so passionate about inspiring the scientists of tomorrow.
Why are green chemistry and sustainable invention so important right now?
In today’s world, science profoundly affects us all. Chemistry is important to understand, even for people without a technical or science background, because of the power we see it deliver in our everyday lives, through electronics, devices, even electric vehicles (EVs).
Many people associate chemistry with vague high school memories of the periodic table, but chemistry and science innovation are relevant to all of our daily lives and the future of our planet. In today’s world where more and more devices are being produced, used by customers, then discarded, it’s more important than ever to understand and demand sustainable sources and efficient recycling methods. That’s why we need to enable our next generation of scientists to explore and develop innovative methods.
How did you become interested in science?
Growing up I was always interested in being an applied scientist. I was inspired by learning about the work of other scientists—such as Nikola Tesla harnessing the power of alternating current electricity in my hometown, which led me to pursue research in electrochemical devices, or Lewis Latimer contributing to the invention of a new filament to improve the light bulb (fun fact: both scientists worked with Thomas Edison). More recently, I was inspired by meeting the inventor of the blue LED, Nobel Laureate Dr. Shuji Nakamura. His work is incredibly impactful as we use LEDs in nearly all flat screen displays today.
Why was the Pathways to Sustainable Invention series important?
There was a pandemic of racial inequality and lack of resources in certain communities well before the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID pandemic further compounded these issues to a critical point of social unrest. I considered this series a way to address this in my (our) own capacity as educators.
Through the series, we aimed to empower younger BIPOC by sharing the professional journeys, personal experiences, and unique techniques the panelists have used to achieve success as Black professionals, inventors, and entrepreneurs. Designed for a diverse audience of young people, the series highlighted a variety of topics on the cutting edge of technology, along with the possibilities and practical steps of starting a business. The virtual platform offered accessibility, inclusivity, and convenience, which enabled panelists from across the world to share their valuable messages, ideas, innovations, and sustainable projects.
What made you want to be involved?
As a scientist, I feel a call of duty to help cultivate the next generation of scientists. It’s becoming more apparent that a good number of jobs in the near future will involve some kind of fundamental chemical know-how — such as for battery packs replacing gasoline, polymers of various plastics substituting in for metals, and considering how potentially hazardous byproducts are affecting the air and environments of our local communities. These jobs and skills are critical for our world, as we collectively watch the acidification of the ocean and an increase in the greenhouse gasses causing global warming.
What were some of your favorite aspects of the series?
I truly appreciated — and I know the audience did, too — the perspectives offered through the multigenerational approach. Each session included three panelists, who ranged from early career such as high schoolers, mid-career such as recent college grads, and late career folks sharing their years of wisdom. For me personally, it was incredible to hear the forward-thinking and heartfelt stories from the youngest panelists about their research tackling some of the biggest global concerns. For example, one younger person shared their work on a digital app to ensure enough clean water. Behind the scenes, I enjoyed lending assistance to prepare some of our presenters to effectively convey their gifts in the virtual environment.
What advice or encouragement might you give to a young Black person interested in getting involved with STEM?
Well, a great starting point is to listen to the recording of the Pathways to Sustainable Invention series, which touches on a wide variety of topics — from tech apps to aerial drones, coding to cosmetics, solar energy to food science. Next, research the topics the panelists discussed that sparked your interest and get immersed immediately. Look up the companies where these people work and the organizations they’re members of, such as NOBCChE, Beyond Benign, and Society for Science. They all have chemistry-related programs you can join and start actively participating in right away.
July 20, 2022Supporting the advancement of Black and Indigenous scientists is a critical part of creating the future of green chemistry and sustainable science. To work toward that goal, through support from [...]
Dr. Andrea Ashley-Oyewole has seen the difference being part of a like-minded community can have for her career and her students. An Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU) in Prairie View, Texas, Dr. Ashley-Oyewole helped drive her department’s signing of the Beyond Benign Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC).
The GCC provides a framework to unite the green chemistry higher education community around a common vision to expand the community of green chemists, grow departmental resources, improve connections to job opportunities, and affect systemic and lasting change in chemistry education. With support from Dow, Beyond Benign launched a GCC 25×25 initiative with a goal of ensuring that 25% of graduating U.S. chemists have a background in green chemistry by 2025. PVAMU recently signed onto the GCC, becoming the first HBCU (historically Black college and university) to do so.
Holding degrees in Chemistry and Environmental Toxicology, Dr. Ashley-Oyewole is the co-advisor to the PVAMU Chemistry Club and a Co-Chair for the Diversity, Equity, Belonging and Respect Subcommittee on Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community (GCTLC) Leadership Committee. In this Q&A, Dr. Ashley-Oyewole shares what being a member of the Green Chemistry Commitment community has meant for her professionally, as well as what it has offered her students, her department and the University.
How did you first learn about the Green Chemistry Commitment?
PVAMU Chemistry heard about the GCC through an invitation to attend a meeting with Beyond Benign, Dow and the College of Engineering, which was held on our campus in the spring of 2020.
What was the process of becoming part of the GCC community like for you?
Signing on to the GCC was easy for us. We had permission from our department head to complete the necessary documents and then it was forwarded to the Dean for final signatures. It all happened in a day.
What has being part of the GCC community done for you as a faculty member?
As a scientist from an interdisciplinary background in a department filled with Ph.D. chemists, it has given me a voice and a way to show what I can offer to the academy. It has also allowed me to introduce my students to a subject that is of particular interest to me coming from an environmental science background.
Any specific outcomes you can share?
I’ve always envisioned creating an environmental chemistry course in my department, and the encouragement I’ve received from the GCC community has built my confidence to move forward with the project. I have found my feet and my voice, literally, and I am looking forward to bigger things because of the assistance from my colleagues in the GCC. I have experienced a genuine sense of belonging as a scientist that was not there before.
It’s also helped me connect with new colleagues and students across the globe. I’ve met students in Berlin who are doing great work to advance green chemistry in the University. I have talked with colleagues in Canada and multiple states across the U.S., and I hope to work on research projects in the future.
How has being part of the GCC community impacted your students and their ability to prepare for career competitiveness?
My students have been very receptive to our green chemistry infusion topics, and my first-year courses also received B-Global designation to help students become more active and informed global citizens.
Students are excited to see how chemistry is applied to solving everyday problems, to explore tangible examples of environmental issues and how chemistry can solve these problems. One example is the overproduction of fast fashion and the environmental problem with the disposal of that waste. That was obscure to students but after learning about it, they wanted to commit to recycling and reusing more products. Many were amazed by the carbon footprint of their daily lives and began thinking more about energy efficiency. Others began to understand sea level rise and greenhouse emissions as urgent problems to be solved. The end result is they are talking more about the issues and making connections to their chemistry coursework, as well. This will serve them in their future careers as they learn applications of science solving real global issues.
How has being part of the GCC helped your institution?
Our Department has benefited a great deal. This work has given us avenues to expand in research and supported our efforts toward effective and relevant teaching. Recruitment efforts for new majors and graduate student research enquiries are increasing.
The University has the distinction of being the first HBCU to sign on to the GCC and I am very proud of that. The Texas Defender regional newspaper published a story on that achievement.
Why do you think other institutions should join the GCC?
They would be giving their students access to priceless knowledge. They’re also joining a community of like-minded individuals with a passion for teaching, and preparing global citizens and future scientists with the necessary skills to understand and solve globally relevant issues that affect all people.
What advice would you give another faculty member about advocating for green chemistry on their campus?
Start small with what is already available. Every effort, no matter how small, is relevant. Don’t be afraid if you are the only one in the beginning. Also stay connected with the community by attending the monthly connections when possible, and reach out if you need help. The online community has a wealth of information and support is always just an email away.
Growing Community, Connections and Inspiration: A Q&A with Green Chemistry Commitment advocate Dr. Andrea Ashley-Oyewole
July 20, 2022Dr. Andrea Ashley-Oyewole has seen the difference being part of a like-minded community can have for her career and her students. An Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Prairie View A&M [...]
By Nimrat Obhi, Jonathon Moir, Amy Cannon & Natalie J. O’Neil
Upon returning from our first in-person conference since 2019, we were (understandably) exhausted. It was so exciting and energizing to see colleagues and friends whom we had either never met, or hadn’t had a chance to see in-person in a very long time. In fact, even our U.S. and Canadian Beyond Benign team members met for the first time in-person! We were all thrilled to be in the same place, at the same time – a rare opportunity to connect around a topic that we all hold dear to our hearts, green chemistry.
We have been going to the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference for years (Amy in particular). It seemed to be different this time around. Perhaps it was the distance between our last in-person conference – or, perhaps it was the youthful, invigorating energy from the numerous students and post-docs that we met. But, it did seem different. The open discussions of using green chemistry to address diversity, equity and inclusion, along with the themes of systems thinking and solving sustainability challenges through green chemistry resonated deeply with us, and with many of the attendees.
It was exciting to see new, emerging leaders in the green chemistry community. To kick off the conference, Dr. Adelina Voutchkova was welcomed as the new of Director of Sustainable Development and the Green Chemistry Institute at the ACS. As a longtime member of the green chemistry education community, we are excited to see her take on this leadership role. During her presentation, Adelina gave some important remarks about the influence of her very first GC&E conference in 2005 on her career. She reached out specifically to the students and next generation of scientists, educators and researchers in the room to encourage them to continue participating in the conference and to take advantage of the many benefits it can offer.
It was encouraging to see so many energetic, talented students who are embarking on their careers participating in the conference, such as Bria Garcia, a graduate student at the University of Delaware, who was participating for the first time as a graduate student. Listening to Anthony Rodriguez (recent graduate, Seton Hall University) present on his undergraduate research and hear him say “green chemistry has caused me to think about my actions in and outside of the lab” left us with so much hope for the future. He will be starting graduate school in the fall and we have full confidence that we will be hearing about his numerous contributions in green chemistry in the coming years. Tony Jin, Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Audrey Moores’ group at McGill University, was recognized for his innovative research through a poster award on his work on chitosan nanocrystals – a new type of nanomaterial derived from shell waste. These emerging researchers and leaders will pave the way for chemists to solve global challenges – and, they are so very needed in this community.
Diversity, equity and inclusion was another theme that resonated throughout the conference . It was really exciting to hear these topics discussed openly and hear how green chemistry can be used as a tool to address these challenges and inequities. The role of women in green chemistry and sustainability was particularly interesting to hear – Dr. Juliana Vidal (Beyond Benign post-graduate liaison) shared how women are agents of change in a recent editorial from a number of leading green chemistry researchers. Mary Kate Lane (Yale University) presented a subject that is often taboo within chemistry research – being pregnant in the lab. Her review titled “What to Expect When Expecting in the Lab” was really exciting to hear – as pregnant women (and their unborn children) face unique risks in the lab and as a result, pregnant women have historically had to make choices that impact their careers. Equitably providing resources for women to remain in chemistry research and take part in the green chemistry movement is essential in the field to ensure a diversity of perspectives and leaders take part in creating solutions. Dr. David Laviska (Seton Hall University) also provided some great insight on making the STEM fields more inclusive by providing good student support mechanisms. And, GCLTC Leadership Committee Member Andrea Ashley-Oyewole (Prairie View A&M University, GCC Signer) shared the work from the GCTLC Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Respect Subcommittee and how they aim to interweave equitable and inclusive practices throughout the online platform. The open discussions around how to actively include diverse students and perspectives was refreshing to hear and we are hopeful for the direction that this will bring us within the community.
Finally, we were so proud to participate in, and listen to, numerous fantastic symposia and presentations from the green chemistry education community. Including:
- Ken Hoffman (Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School, GCTLC Leadership Committee member, Beyond Benign Lead Teacher), who summarized a systems thinking approach to teaching high school chemistry through green chemistry principles.
- Elizabeth Day (University of Texas El Paso) and Alexey Leontyev (North Dakota State University, GCTLC Leadership Committee member) organized a session on Assessment of Student Knowledge and Skills in Green Chemistry, Sustainability, and Systems Thinking – more evidence to build the case for green chemistry education is so important.
- Glenn Hurst (York University, GCTLC Leadership Committee member) presented on assessment of systems thinking in green chemistry in higher education via the design of a first-generation biorefinery.
- Sonya Doucette (Bellevue College) and Marta Guron (University of Pennsylvania) gave insights into teaching undergraduate general chemistry through an environmental justice lens and assessing green chemistry in an introductory chemistry module using systems thinking concepts
- GCC Advisory Board member Ed Brush (Bridgewater State University, GCC Signer) and Beyond Benign collaborators Jane Wissinger (University of Minnesota, GCC Signer) and Grace Lasker (UW Bothell) organized a Systems Thinking and UN SDG-themed session on Monday afternoon
- A fantastic session on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect (DEIR) in Chemistry and Engineering was organized by GCTLC Leadership Committee Members David Laviska and Glenn Hurst, with Michael Wentzel (Augsburg University). The session talks focused on the importance of equitable and universal access to green chemistry resources, and creating and providing resources that reflect the diversity of a global population, including the previously mentioned talks, and a talk by Cynthia Woodbridge (Georgia Gwinnett College) on her efforts towards “ungrading”: assessing students using nontraditional and inclusive methods to promote and enhance their learning.
- Beyond Benign’s Director of Higher Education Natalie O’Neil co-organized a session with Samy Ponnusamy (MilliporeSigma, GCC Advisory Board member) and Dean Campbell (Bradley University, Beyond Benign Greener Chemistry Laboratory Faculty Fellow) on “Integrating Sustainable Practices into Teaching and Research laboratories through Systems Thinking”. During the symposium, presentations from Namrata Jain (My Green Lab), Glenn Hurst, and Barb Morra highlighted some of the phenomenal efforts being made in introducing sustainability into undergraduate laboratories, including through student-centered research projects. Particularly inspiring was the collaborative work between John De Backere (University of Toronto, GCC Signer, Beyond Benign Greener Chemistry Laboratory Faculty Fellow), Matt Cranswick (Colorado State University – Pueblo), and Edward Zovinka (Saint Francis University) on bringing green chemistry and greener experiments into undergraduate inorganic chemistry labs (stay tuned for the release of the new resource guide in August!).
- A toxicology session organized by Teresa McGrath (Healthy Building Network) and Lauren Heine (ChemFORWARD) wrapped up the last day of the conference. The session was aimed at increasing education on hazards assessment, smarter molecular design, and greener product development in chemistry and engineering programs. Higher Education Program Manager Nimrat Obhi presented on Beyond Benign’s upcoming Toxicology for Chemists curriculum: a fully open-access curriculum that teaches introductory chemistry students the basic principles of toxicology to allow them to design safer molecules! (The curriculum will be launched online on August 1, 2022 – sign up here to stay tuned for details!). In addition, talks were presented by Rena Miu (Healthy Building Network), Chris Bartlett (ChemFORWARD), Shegufa Shetranjiwalla (Memorial University, Beyond Benign community member), and Elliot Rossomme (Messiah College) and Amanda Guan (UC Berkeley, GCC Signer) on hazards assessment tools and educational strategies all geared toward minimizing hazard and risk when designing chemical products.
And, finally, our very own Jon Moir (Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community (GCLTC) Program Manager) presented a great overview of the GCTLC program, focusing on its development and progress, and emphasizing how this new online platform will serve and support a diverse green chemistry community. It is through this platform that we are hopeful to continue the conversations that we start at these in-person conferences. The tool can be a place for following-up with colleagues, sharing that paper from that talk that you heard, and collaborating with new (and old!) colleagues to amplify our collective impacts and accelerate the adoption of green chemistry in our educational systems. It won’t replace the energy from in-person experiences, but we hope it will sustain it until next time… so, until next time, we look forward to “seeing” you (and your cat!) on Zoom!
June 20, 2022By Nimrat Obhi, Jonathon Moir, Amy Cannon & Natalie J. O'Neil The group of Green Chemistry educators from the GC education session. Upon returning from our first in-person conference since [...]
Join us at the 2022 Green Chemistry Commitment Summit to hear how our first Green Chemistry Education Challenge award-winners are working to develop diverse, replicable models to incorporate green chemistry into science departments.
Part of the excitement and challenge of working to bring green chemistry to higher education institutions across the nation is the diversity of approaches needed for success. It is through this diversity that we will have the greatest impact on the most students, helping to equip the scientists of the future with the knowledge and resources to tackle our most pressing challenges.
This is why Beyond Benign developed the Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) 25×25 goal, which seeks to ensure that 25 percent of graduating chemists in the U.S. have a background in green chemistry by 2025. To help us realize this goal, in partnership with Dow, in 2021 we created our first Green Chemistry Education Challenge Awards. Through the awards, we provide support to challenge winners to empower faculty and students to bring green chemistry to their departments.
Last year we were thrilled to award the first of these grants to the University of California Berkeley; Michigan State University; and Southern University. Using award funding, these three universities are designing approximately 10 teaching resources for undergraduate courses, helping bring green chemistry directly to more than 3,000 students each year.
The diversity of approaches at each of these universities will serve as models for additional institutions to create pathways for shifting their chemistry teaching and practice. Join us at the upcoming free, virtual Green Chemistry Commitment Summit to hear how these universities designed and/or expanded green chemistry at their institutions, and what’s next for our Green Chemistry Education Challenge Awards. The Summit is open to all. We hope to see you there!
“Green chemistry is a fundamental building block toward designing safer materials for a sustainable planet,” says Eunice Heath, Dow’s corporate director of Sustainability. “Therefore, we are partnering with Beyond Benign to ensure students are entering the workforce with the essential green chemistry and sustainable chemistry knowledge and skills to help us address solutions for circular economy and decarbonization. These are the world’s greatest challenges as we strive for a sustainable future for generations to come.”
Learn More About Our Challenge Award Recipients & Projects
Southern University: A 2021 Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) signer, Southern University will use its award to design a 3-year project to implement green chemistry across the entire Chemistry department. Fundamental concepts and real-life applications of green chemistry will be introduced and taught in these courses to provide students an insightful perspective of the significant role green chemistry plays in solving environmental issues such as global warming and pollution, along with hands-on approaches in chemistry laboratory courses.
Michigan State University: A GCC Signer since 2018, MSU is using the award to pilot and evaluate green chemistry and project-based laboratory curriculum designed for organic laboratory courses for STEM and BA chemistry majors. This award will support the work of undergraduates as they beta-test the student-facing curricular materials to plan and carry out each investigation and to design protocols to evaluate each project on key green & sustainable chemistry principles, using appropriate metrics.
University of California Berkeley: UC Berkeley, a founding GCC Signer since the program launched in 2013, has been a leader in green chemistry education. With this award, the University will build upon the work it has done to integrate green chemistry in first year- level general chemistry. Through this award, the University will start a complete redesign of the curriculum for its sophomore-level organic course to explicitly integrate GCC Student Learning Goals.
June 17, 2022Join us at the 2022 Green Chemistry Commitment Summit to hear how our first Green Chemistry Education Challenge award-winners are working to develop diverse, replicable models to incorporate green chemistry [...]
Teachers and educators are developing an exciting new community dedicated to inspiring the next generation of innovators and scientists.
As our world faces existential threats such as climate change and ocean plastics, educators play a critical role in equipping students with the knowledge and skills to build a healthier and more sustainable future for our planet. Green chemistry is an upstream, preventative, solutions-oriented approach to creating a healthier future. Through the application of green chemistry, scientists and innovators can prevent the generation of pollutants and toxic compounds before they’re ever released into the environment or exposed to humans and animals, rather than cleaning up those pollutants afterward.
To enable and inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators to work sustainably, green chemistry must be taught widely in science and chemistry education programs. Cue the Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community (GCTLC), a joint initiative by Beyond Benign and the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute.
Being developed in collaboration with educators from across the U.S. and the world, the GCTLC will be a central online space where teachers, industry leaders and students can share best practices and resources, connect and collaborate, receive mentorship and feedback, and help each other through peer-to-peer learning.
In this Q&A, GCTLC Program Manager Dr. Jonathon Moir shares the goals, structure, and progress of this exciting new community.
What is the GCTLC?
Jonathon Moir: The GCTLC is a virtual online community space set to launch in 2023 that will help transform chemistry education programs across the globe. It will include a library of open-access green chemistry education materials, spaces for online collaboration and networking, discussion forums, and more.
Our mission is to create, develop, and nurture a diverse and accessible online community of practice that fosters a strong sense of belonging. We want to support open collaboration, networking, mentorship, and resource-sharing between members of the scientific community to advance the integration of green chemistry across the education continuum. We hope to build a teaching and learning community that empowers responsible global citizens with the knowledge, skills, and tools to transform science education, address grand challenges, and ensure a sustainable future for all.
Why is the GCTLC being formed using a “Community of Transformation” model?
JM: One of the most effective methods for reforming STEM education and addressing challenges is through communities of transformation (CoTs). CoTs are related to communities of practice, but create much more profound and deep, meaningful change; they consist of groups of individuals who share a common philosophy and embody that philosophy in their day-to-day work. They form a network of peers that can support each other in making change, allowing members to provide mentorship and guidance to one another, and in so doing not only change the way education is practiced but fundamentally transform how teaching is thought about and approached, permeating all aspects of it (from assessments to lecture slides to lab skills development to contextualization of course material). For more on this, I recommend watching Beyond Benign Executive Director and Co-Founder Amy Cannon’s talk on the GCTLC and Communities of Transformation.
Who is leading the development of this initiative?
JM: Developing a platform such as the GCTLC requires a dedicated and cross-disciplinary team on the administrative side, which is being led by Beyond Benign and the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute. Last year I joined Beyond Benign to lead the GCTLC’s planning, development, launch, and growth, and the experience has been incredibly rewarding. Getting to work with educators and community members who are passionate and dedicated to green chemistry (more so than in any other sector I have encountered) is truly inspiring. I wanted to deeply understand the needs of the community to help make the platform a success, and so immediately began connecting with stakeholders and partner organizations across education and industry.
The GCTLC Leadership Committee was formed at the beginning of the project and has been the heart and soul of the program. The committee includes 20 members from various areas across education (postsecondary learning, K-12, industry, and information management) and from diverse backgrounds and geographies. This group has been working diligently through subcommittees, with each group focused on a strategic action for the GCTLC platform, namely:
- Developing, distributing, and sharing accessible, high-quality green chemistry education resources;
- Creating opportunities for open collaboration, networking, and mentorship;
- Driving awareness and adoption of green chemistry; and
- Ensuring Diversity, Equity, Belonging and Respect (DEBR) within the community and on the GCTLC platform.
What is the timeline for the launch of the program?
JM: The program is set to launch in 2023. Last year we focused on strategy, community-building, and research. Now with our strategic priorities set and our leadership committee and subcommittees in full swing, we will begin the development of our online platform. The GCTLC will host online spaces for collaboration, networking, mentorship, and peer-to-peer learning for educators, students, and industry stakeholders, as well as a searchable online database of green chemistry education materials. Additional features will include discussion forums, working groups, event listings, job boards, and more. The timeline is approximately 12 to 16 months from start to launch.
The subcommittees of the Leadership Committee will also be hard at work over the next year laying the groundwork for the new platform. This will include finalizing recommendations for resource submission and review criteria for the online library; assessing the needs of various audiences; recommending peer learning and mentorship, as well as professional development opportunities and functionality for GCTLC users; and advising on issues related to DEBR in online communities of practice.
Lastly, we’ll be working on outreach to build our community through virtual networking, online presentations, and in-person presentations at conferences throughout the summer and fall.
How can I learn more?
JM: To stay up to date on our progress, sign up here. And most importantly, please invite your colleagues to join you. Our community is being built for you and by you, and we want everyone to benefit from it! If you have any questions or would like to collaborate on this initiative, please reach out to me!
April 8, 2022Teachers and educators are developing an exciting new community dedicated to inspiring the next generation of innovators and scientists. Jonathon Moir As our world faces existential threats such as climate [...]
Johanna Brown is a chemistry teacher at Pullman High School in Washington. A passionate educator with an eye toward the future, Johanna has made green chemistry lessons an essential part of her students’ curricula, and she’s also supported other teachers in their green chemistry education.
We talked to Johanna about her background in education and how green chemistry has made her students more engaged in the classroom. As Earth Day approaches, we’re celebrating the connection between green chemistry principles and our ongoing commitment to being stewards of our environment. As Johanna says, “every day is Earth Day.”
Beyond Benign (BB): Tell us a little bit about your background. Why did you become a science teacher, and what motivated you to start learning about and teaching about green chemistry?
Johanna Brown (JB): From a young age, growing up in Spokane, Washington, I have always been very concerned about our planet and all of the living things on it. I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do but thought deeply about healthcare. In high school I had a teacher tell me that I would make a great teacher, and I brushed him off, ready to get into STEM in college. At the end of my chemistry program at Western Washington University, I realized that the lab was not my destiny and ended up working at WSU in Residence Life, where I (not surprisingly) helped with a campus-wide sustainability competition. I was teaching a leadership class there and tutoring chemistry when it all clicked, and I knew I needed to go back and get my teaching certification.
I’ll admit that while earning my chemistry degree and early in my teaching, I had the ideas of sustainability and chemistry completely separate in my mind. Once I learned about the 12 principles of green chemistry and how they could be embedded into my classroom, it felt like such a natural pairing. I have now taken both of the Beyond Benign Green Chemistry courses, and those really amped up my ability to teach in this context. Then, seeing how sustainable chemistry is such a natural fit with the NGSS has spurred me to write my own green lessons and labs.
BB: Why do you think it’s important for teachers to incorporate green chemistry principles into their science classrooms?
JB: Green chemistry is just a no-brainer to me. Teachers, students, and all living things benefit from using materials that do not harm us or our environment. Using more benign and everyday chemicals has the added benefits of making lab clean-up a breeze and much cheaper. Since I don’t need to purchase many lab-grade chemicals from specialty suppliers, I can grab consumables for a much lower price at my local grocery store. I do often have to explain why I am buying 100 pixie stix, dry ice, and liquid starch at the same time.
What I didn’t expect at first, and what I have found the most important for my student learning, is that green chemistry is more applicable to students’ lives. While getting that gorgeous yellow lead (II) iodide precipitate to form is attention-getting, students don’t form a strong connection with that phenomenon. If we are truly going to teach the NGSS, we need to embed our instruction in situations that they can connect to. Think IMFs with washcloths and absorbance, stoichiometry with fuel calculations, bond energy and activation energy with candles. I now tend to use videos to show the more flash-bang type of demonstrations while having students really get their hands on safer substances that they can actually connect with.
BB: In the time that you’ve been involved in green chemistry teaching and training, have you noticed any trends in teaching?
JB: I am happy to report that we are definitely moving away from the old demo-a-day, lecture, test algorithm that was seen in many chemistry classrooms from the past. As more and more schools truly commit to the NGSS and dig into the standards, it is clear that the model of stand-alone content areas is history. The chemistry classes of today need engineering practices, earth science, and application to name just a few additions. I think the interest will only keep growing as we better acknowledge the science of keeping our planet habitable.
BB: Tell us about your background leading green chemistry trainings.
JB: I have to say that I am very lucky to have great friends and colleagues. After attending a training session at the Washington Science Teacher Association state conference, I got connected to Saskia Van Bergen, who works out of the Washington State Department of Ecology. Her office sponsored half of my Beyond Benign High School Summer course and after that, she had the idea to put together some in person training for people in Washington State. We had planned for a great day of green chemistry in Spokane for May of 2020. That didn’t work out, but we pivoted and ended up writing three different sessions for high school, middle school, and elementary school and presented them virtually (and hands-on, we mailed out packets!) sessions. We did this in the summer of 2021 as well, and our middle school session has now been developed into a self-paced course via ClimeTime funding and Cari Haug, a science coordinator in central Washington.
Through these we have reached hundreds of Washington teachers at every level, and I was so amazed at our feedback. I think many teachers want to address climate change and ideas of sustainability but aren’t sure where to start. We offered immediately implementable activities that teachers are now doing in their classrooms, and some of them are even designing their own place-based lessons!
BB: What advancements do you think are most necessary in order to get green chemistry into more classrooms?
JB: The labs that Beyond Benign have are great ways for teachers to get started. As more and more schools are heading toward phenomenon-based learning, we need to create high-quality instructional materials that are three-dimensional and unit-based that focus around an aspect of green chemistry. As always, I think that many people are interested, we just need to lower the activation energy for them to try it, so to say.
BB: Earth Day is coming up! Do you have anything special planned for your classroom?
JB: I am more of an “every day is Earth Day” sort of person. After the exam, AP Chemistry will do a full environmental chemistry unit, studying polymers, plastics, water quality, and air quality. My classic chemistry course will be looking at food waste that day and how food waste heading to a landfill vs. a compost has different effects on the Earth. Find it here!
How Green Chemistry Helps High School Students Connect to Science Lessons: A Conversation with Teacher Johanna Brown
April 8, 2022Johanna Brown Johanna Brown is a chemistry teacher at Pullman High School in Washington. A passionate educator with an eye toward the future, Johanna has made green chemistry lessons an [...]
Education is central to creating lasting change in any movement. Through green chemistry education, we can catalyze technological innovations that result in less hazardous materials, products and processes in support of a sustainable, healthy society. By offering access to a broad and supportive community of chemistry experts and a flexible framework for green chemistry curriculum and training, Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) is helping transform chemistry education in college and university chemistry departments.
Cintia Milagre is Assistant Professor at the Institute of Chemistry at University Estadual Paulista in Brazil, a GCC signer. Cintia believes finding sustainable solutions should be a commitment we all make to the planet we call home, and she advocates for sustainability both within the university and in her community.
In this Q&A, Cintia speaks with Beyond Benign about the importance of green chemistry in education and the GCC, and shares some of the impacts she’s seen this critical work have on students.
Beyond Benign (BB): Why does the Institute of Chemistry at UNESP believe teaching students green chemistry principles is important?
Cintia Milagre (CM): Training the new generation of chemists to be aware of their socio-environmental role with the planet is paramount. When we teach the principles of green chemistry to students in the early years and this knowledge is consolidated over the following years, we provide them the means and tools necessary to reinvent chemistry to meet sustainable development demands.
BB: Can you share some of the ways you’ve seen green chemistry impact students’ educational experiences and connection to chemistry?
CM: In 2021, Professor Humberto Milagre and I taught the course “Sustainable Chemistry,” where we addressed the principles of green chemistry, and the relationship between chemistry and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
At the end of the course, the students were divided into small groups to present a project in which one or more principles of green chemistry could be used in the chemist routine. This experience was fantastic. We had projects that addressed greener chemical processes and reactions, projects involving experiments for undergraduate chemistry labs, and projects centered on outreach activities. Some projects focused on important incremental innovations, while others were more audacious.
During the project presentations, the discussions were vibrant. The class came up with suggestions on implementing green chemistry practices in their routine, ways to circumvent the challenges, and strategies to convince the most resistant people that green chemistry is viable.
BB: How did you see this experience translate beyond the classroom?
CM: Some students reported that they were already putting the teachings into practice in their work environments. One of the students, an intern at a chemical company, said that she presented the principles of green chemistry and proposals to implement some specific changes in the project she was working on in one of her team meetings, and that the team started to discuss how to make such changes feasible. Another student is considering organizing a new student chapter at the Institute of Chemistry, whose pillar will be Sustainable Chemistry.
BB: How do those student experiences go on to impact their future careers and the world?
CM: In addition to the excitement of all students with the green chemistry topic, we had students from the previous year planning to execute their course projects in “real life” at the beginning of 2022.
These students develop critical thinking skills on the topic of green chemistry, and the feedback from the students is very positive. I’m sure all of them are now committed to spreading and adopting the precepts of green chemistry in their daily choices.
BB: Why did The Institute of Chemistry – UNESP sign the GCC? How do you see collaboration with other GCC signers impacting your work?
CM: The Institute of Chemistry – UNESP has always been at the forefront of this area, and therefore it was natural for us to be a GCC signer. We believe it is not enough to train competent professionals with the necessary technical skills for this profession. It is also essential to train professionals aware of their socio-environmental responsibilities and provide the required means to act in their field of activity.
Education is the most efficient way to build a sustainable planet. By signing the GCC, we can move faster because more people (professors, staff, technicians, employees, students) are involved and committed to making the chemistry developed and carried out in our institute greener. For example, we included a discipline that deals with green chemistry in the mandatory curriculum for the first-year students—exchanges of experience with other GCC signers helped in this process.
The Green Chemistry Commitment is currently accepting new signers. The GCC is voluntary, flexible and progressive — in other words, departments do not have to be perfect in green chemistry implementation to sign up, they only need to commit to continual improvement. Learn more about the program and how to become a signer here.
March 8, 2022Education is central to creating lasting change in any movement. Through green chemistry education, we can catalyze technological innovations that result in less hazardous materials, products and processes in support [...]
Last week, our Board Member and Co-Founder Dr. John Warner participated on the Activation Energy Podcast, in partnership with the Chemical Angel Network! In this episode, John talks about sustainability, Green Chemistry education, communication, talent development, and financing innovation!
January 31, 2022Last week, our Board Member and Co-Founder Dr. John Warner participated on the Activation Energy Podcast, in partnership with the Chemical Angel Network! In this episode, John talks about sustainability, [...]