Although chemistry occurs in systems in nature, most students still learn chemistry in a reductionist manner—looking at the discrete parts without a clear idea how it connects to the whole. Now chemistry educators are starting to integrate the concept of “systems thinking” into the chemistry classroom. The ACS Green Chemistry Institute, in partnership with other groups, recently helped pull together a special issue of J. Chem. Ed. on systems thinking and green chemistry that is a great resource for those interested in exploring this topic further.
Systems thinking has a number of definitions—so it is no wonder many people are wondering, “What is systems thinking and how does it relate to green chemistry?” The ACS GCI recently created this short animated video to attempt a simple explanation on how green chemistry encourages chemists to use a systems thinking approach to their chemistry.
As we move into 2020, the Institute will continue our work mapping out the green chemistry theme for the organic and general chemistry Anchoring Concepts Content Maps. This work will take place in a series of workshops. If you are interested in participating, there is an opportunity to do so at the Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (BCCE) meeting this summer in Corvallis, Oregon.
In addition, we will continue to advance our three-year plan to create resources for undergraduate chemistry professors to teach green chemistry, systems thinking and the U.N. Sustainability Development Goals within the general chemistry and organic chemistry curriculum. Stay tuned to The Nexus to learn more about this community-based project as it develops.