As teachers, we are asked that our students, on any given day, be able to tell any visitor in our classroom what they are working on and why it is important. This means that our students should be able to describe in their own words what problem the class is trying to solve. Green chemistry is a great way to incorporate this type of learning. You could have a one week unit trying to solve a simple problem with green chemistry concepts or a multi-week or semester long project. To introduce green chemistry, you can start by looking at the suggestions from a previous blog post by Raksmey Derival.
One of the overarching themes throughout the NGSS is energy. This is the perfect platform for green chemistry. Parts of the NGSS standards of HS-PS3 (Energy) and HS-PS1 (Chemical Reactions) can be used to incorporate energy and how matter flows into, out of, and within a system. Beyond Benign’s “Introduction to Green Chemistry and Biomimicry” is a great place to start and a way to connect these concepts to anchoring phenomena.
After students have conducted this short activity, ask them to think in terms of product development and the energy involved in their manufacturing. This is where the concept of energy and how matter flows would be introduced, as you get students to think about a product’s life cycle and the energy input that is involved. From here students can continue investigating ideas about structure and properties of matter, relationship between energy flow and chemical reactions. The chemistry concepts that can be incorporated with the anchoring phenomena are numerous and up to you to decide. As an extension, you can conclude the unit with students completing a simple life cycle analysis of a product of their choosing, making sure to incorporate how energy flows in and out of the system. A cost analysis could also be incorporated if desired.
Developing these types of models is at the heart of the NGSS that incorporates the Science and Engineering Practice(s), Disciplinary Core Idea(s) and Crosscutting Concepts. Green chemistry provides a context in which to explore these practices, ideas and concepts. Though adopting the NGSS may seem intimidating, there are many resources to help you implement the NGSS into your classroom. In my state of Michigan, we started incorporating them this school year with Biology. Next year we also will include Earth Science and Biology. The NSTA website is a wealth of information and guidance to help you in your implementation. I personally have found the Next Generation Storylines to be very helpful in our district’s curriculum development.