Contributed by David Constable, Director, ACS Green Chemistry Institute®
I’m currently writing this on a plane as I make my way to Illinois to speak at the Midwest Association of Chemistry Teachers at Liberal Arts Colleges (MACTLAC). I’m honored and excited to be asked to these kinds of events for several reasons. The first is, the data we’ve gathered suggests that teachers at these institutions are doing more than many other chemistry teachers to integrate green chemistry and engineering concepts into their curriculum. I think this is huge because at most R1 universities, teachers of chemistry are resistant and often antagonistic to the notion that teaching chemistry within a real-world context is important. The more I can do to encourage a change in how chemistry is taught, the more hope I have that society can and will change some of the less sustainable practices we take for granted as just “the way we do chemistry.” I often quip that if there isn’t an explosion, a fire, chemistry in a glove box, liberal quantities of liquid nitrogen, or a reaction at 1000+ C, then most chemists don’t think they’re doing real chemistry.
The second reason is that I get to talk about our educational roadmap initiative. For those who have not yet heard about this, I would invite you to have a look here. We are deeply indebted to our leadership team, Dr. Jim Hutchison, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon, Dr. Mary Kirchoff, the ACS Director of Education, and Dr. Eric Beckman, Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Pittsburgh, and to our ACS GCI Program Manager, Jenny MacKellar, for shepherding this initiative over the past year. During September, the ACS GCI invited a group of leaders in green chemistry and green chemistry education to a visioning workshop that will be followed next June, 2016, by a larger workshop of green chemistry leaders and educators. The purpose of the second workshop is to build on the visioning workshop and develop a roadmap for green chemistry education.
There were several insights developed at the workshop that are worth mentioning. The first is that developing accepted learning objectives for green chemistry in all areas of chemistry curriculum will be enormously challenging. The second is that in order for the second workshop to be successful, it will be essential to build out some of the visions that were created as part of the workshop. These visions have to do with the practice of chemistry, the pull for chemists by industry, what students need to know, and how to move chemistry curriculum forward. Anyone who is part of the chemistry education sector, and those that have come through it, know exactly how hard it is going to be to move this roadmap forward. This is not to say that there hasn’t already been a lot of great work by some chemistry educators who have made great progress down the path of integrating green chemistry and sustainability concepts into their curriculum. There are, but I think that it is fair to say that this has not been done in a consistent or standardized manner.
I can’t emphasize enough how important and pivotal I think this initiative is to the future of the global chemistry enterprise. I hope all who are reading this recognize the magnitude of this challenge and I am equally hopeful you recognize that the ACS GCI, or those that are part of the workshops and working parties, will not be able to do this by themselves. This is a multi-year effort that will require the hard work of many dedicated people to be successful. We’ve just drawn the line in the sand, and we need every one of you to help us move the chemistry enterprise forward towards more sustainable practices.
It is possible to do this, but it won’t happen on its own, overnight. Thanks for doing your part to make this happen.
As always, please do let me know what you think.
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