By weaving green chemistry into classrooms and labs, educators can empower students to get excited about sustainable science — both in and out of the classroom. Here, educators within our community share how green chemistry impacted their students and lessons this school year, and the valuable takeaways they’ll carry with them into next year.
This school year, what did your students find most valuable or exciting in their green chemistry lessons?
“My students are connecting their organic chemistry knowledge to better understand big global problems outlined by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, focusing on environmental justice issues resulting from global warming. In the lab, they apply green chemistry principles to the synthesis of ionic liquids, which they evaluate for their CO2 capture capacity.” – Dr. Ed Brush, Professor of Chemistry, Bridgewater State University
“My students have been really interested in toxicology information. They analyze the fire diamonds for each substance we use in labs and then reflect on safety precautions prior to interacting with the substances. They are aware of hazards and seem to make better safety choices as a result.” – Erin Mayer, Casey Middle School
“My students really enjoyed learning about the role of green chemistry in meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, as well as in solving contemporary moral and social issues worldwide. They also liked to learn about the cross-disciplinary nature of green chemistry and how to raise awareness about sustainability for elementary school children. They were also fascinated by the topic of biomimicry.” – Dr. Anne Marteel-Parrish, Professor of Chemistry, Washington College
“The biggest takeaway according to the students was management of their lab work and their process. We did a lab at the beginning of the school year talking about lab procedures and green chemistry. When we have them working on their own, I hear them talking about how to reuse and being careful of how they are using their supplies and their materials. I love hearing them telling each other to think about what they are doing and mentioning the 12 principles without me telling them.” – Stefanie Loomis, Catskill Senior High School,
This school year, what was your biggest personal takeaway or learning opportunity related to green chemistry that you’ll carry into next year?
“I’ve learned that one of the most impactful learning experiences students can have are ones in which they make their own decisions toward designing greener chemical reactions. I hope to give my future students more opportunities to make their own decisions in the lab.” – Dr. Barb Morra, Associate Professor, Teaching Stream, University of Toronto.
“Green chemistry education is especially powerful when tied to environmental justice.” – Dr. Sadie C. Otte, Organic Chemistry Laboratory Coordinator, W. M. Keck Science Department,
Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges
“So many lessons can become ‘green chemistry’ lessons, and I loved sharing my passion for it throughout the year. I can’t wait to jump in right away next school year.” – Veronica Morabito-Weeks, Bretton Woods Elementary School
“I found that my students are most interested in changes they can make in their own lives that will be better for the planet, and in this context, I think the lesson on plastic pollution and microplastics pollution was probably the most eye-opening for many of them. Asking them to personally reduce their plastic consumption, to purchase recycled plastic products, and to properly dispose of waste plastic was empowering.” – Dr. Anne McNeil, Carol A. Fierke Collegiate Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan
“My continued takeaways for using greener labs and activities with the chemistry curriculum is how much more meaningful it is for students. Students make stronger, longer-lasting connections with content when they get to work with materials and substances that they are familiar with. As the person primarily responsible for the health and safety of my students, I love the comfort that comes from using more benign materials to teach the same concepts I have always taught, just in a safer manner.” – Jennifer Sherburn, Hesperia High School,
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