Beyond Benign

Lead Teacher Blog

Gisele Rubino

Green Chemistry Principles Are Really Principles for Everyday Life

At first glance, it is easy to think that Beyond Benign curriculum is created with only chemistry applications in mind, that going “green”, only applies to chemistry. You might be surprised to realize that many of the lessons in our curriculum support sustainable science. As a middle school teacher of both life and physical science, I have used many lessons and labs with my students.

Before becoming a teacher, I worked in many sectors within the scientific community, from biotech to pharmaceuticals. Though my work varied, the underlying theme throughout my career was continual improvement. It is not productive to develop some life-saving technology, only to harm ourselves or the environment in the process. Over time, I watched improvements to environmental health and safety procedures making the workplace safer for everyone and creating less waste. I later heard John Warner express that his vision for the future is to see green chemistry principles be fully integrated into all practices of science. The term green chemistry will disappear, and we will simply create safer, more cost effective and better performing products and processes by design. Listening to John, made me reflect on the changes I saw at work and I realized that we all make a difference and need to continue with these efforts. Now, as a middle school teacher of both life and physical sciences, his vision continues to resonate with me.

I am now in a position of teaching the next generation of scientists, and I feel it is important to introduce my students to the principles of green chemistry, but not just in chemistry class. Beyond Benign’s middle school curriculum consists of three units dedicated to biotechnology, chemistry and math and engineering. The Enrichment Materials section is designed for informal science educators teaching students at the middle school level. I have found that several of the lessons written for chemistry in this section can be easily adapted for both life science and earth science. For example, teaching my students about biomimicry (Introduction to Biomimicry  & Advanced Biomimicry Matching Game ) show how inspiration from nature can be used to create viable innovations connecting form, function, technology and engineering design. This is easily integrated into my adaptation lessons. Using real-world technology in the classroom helps to provide examples for my students of how designing with the principles of green chemistry is inherently safer, more cost effective and better performing than alternatives.

Science today needs to be taught with our future in mind. My involvement with Beyond Benign has allowed me to explore and develop curriculum that will help future scientists. Through incorporating “green” curriculum, I feel that I am giving my students a starting point for their future endeavors. Hopefully, this will become a way of life, not just a lesson in science class.

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