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Chemistry Education for Equity and Inclusion: Green and Sustainable Chemistry, Systems Thinking and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Valued Contributor
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Edward Brush, Ph.D.

Bridgewater State University


The world presents us with problems whose complexity and impact we can barely imagine but that we must solve. As educators, our mission is to prepare our students to do exactly that. The integration and scaffolding of Green and Sustainable Chemistry, Systems Thinking and the UN Sustainable Development Goals into an equitable and inclusive undergraduate curriculum can inspire all students to take ownership of their education. They can graduate with the satisfaction that their classroom knowledge has connected them to understand and contribute to solving big global problems.


The highlight of the ACS Green Chemistry Institute’s® 24th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Virtual Conference (GC&E) were the numerous sessions, discussions and workshops related to the emerging paradigm change in chemistry education. The broad array of topics included green and sustainable chemistry, systems thinking, the UN Sustainable Development Goals, high impact practices, career development and lab safety. These topics illustrate how chemistry educators are making a green chemistry commitment to engage students in making broader connections to knowing, understanding and solving big global problems.


It was not at all surprising to hear several presentations related to equity, inclusion and environmental justice. These topics have been a regular part of GC&E education sessions since the 2016 conference in Portland, Oregon, and have been some of the highest attended sessions. Following the GC&E networking event on Inclusion, Diversity and Respect, led by Dr. Dorothy Phillips, it is now crystal clear that equity and inclusion will be an integral part of this paradigm shift in chemistry education. Chemistry students will know how to use their content knowledge to understand complex, real-world problems and to effectively collaborate with others from a range of disciplines in addressing them.


It is essential that these transdisciplinary teams bring together people with diverse perspectives and life experiences to understand the challenges facing the world in the 21st century, and with the skills needed to help solve them. These students will graduate with a desire to build a more just and sustainable world, a deeper knowledge they can apply to real-world problems, skill in collaboration, and the ability to articulate what they’ve learned and how they can adapt it in new contexts. These are the skills employers need and the world needs.


Green chemistry educators are committed to taking action through virtual discussions continuing this summer, into the fall of 2020 and beyond. Educators will outline a general, adaptable curriculum with guiding principles, scaffolded learning outcomes and development of innovative pedagogical approaches - all under the umbrella of an Inclusive Curriculum designed for equity, engagement and accessibility. If you did not sign the participant form at the GC&E Virtual Conference, you can add your name and email at this virtual sign-in sheet.