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Chemistry Education for a Sustainable Future: The Green Chemistry Module Development Project

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By Jenny MacKellar, Program Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute, and Aurora Ginzburg, Education Specialist, ACS Green Chemistry Institute

Are you passionate about sustainability? Do you teach a foundational lower-division chemistry course? Are you looking for opportunities to network with other chemistry educators during this isolating time? What about a way to further engage your students and connect chemistry to important real-world issues? Well, now you have a chance!  ACS GCI has initiated a three-year project to develop chemistry education modules for undergraduate general and organic chemistry courses. We are looking for chemistry educators to help us develop and pilot these materials, and you will be compensated for your time and effort.

This year has made it more apparent than ever that there is a need for open-access, high-quality virtual teaching materials and a community of educators who can share their experience using such materials. In addition, these materials should be relevant and engaging to students, particularly if they are intended to be used exclusively in a virtual setting. The ACS Green Chemistry Institute is developing educational materials that connect fundamental chemistry concepts to sustainability issues, such as those articulated in the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, while using a systems thinking approach. These materials will be developed by teams of educators convened virtually and will cover both general and organic chemistry courses. Over the next two years, the teams will develop modules around fundamental chemistry topics that include the knowledge and skills necessary to practice green and sustainable chemistry. Placing foundational chemistry concepts in their relevant societal and environmental contexts is designed to help all students, including those who are not chemistry majors, find lower-division chemistry courses practical and important.

An overarching driver for this project is to develop materials that help students to construct their knowledge of chemistry in tandem with systems thinking skills so that they can ultimately use chemistry to address real-world problems. In our experience, many students are interested in sustainability but lack the ability to draw connections between fundamental chemical concepts such as bond strength, ion solubility, kinetics, etc. and real-world phenomena like PFAS contamination, algal blooms, and precious metal mining.

This project will build upon recent education transformation efforts that focus on students developing an integrated understanding of underlying concepts. Further, we will utilize existing green chemistry education materials when possible. For more information on the vision for this project, and how sustainability, green chemistry, and systems thinking all connect, we encourage you to check out our project webpage. In addition, we have the module rubric and our introductory webinar posted.

We have just opened up the online application for educators to fill out if they are interested in becoming module developers. Applications should only take 15 minutes to complete and are due by November 20, 2020. Module developers will work in small teams over the next two years to develop, pilot and revise a module on a general or organic chemistry topic. Module developers will be compensated and receive authorship credit for their contributions to the project. For more information about the module development teams, join us for a webinar on November 11 at 3 p.m. EST. We’ll be discussing the composition of the teams, the roles of the team members, timelines and how to use a systems thinking approach to the development of the modules.

We respect that everyone is very busy and these are incredibly challenging times, and we hope that the relatively long project-timeline and team layout will encourage educators to participate despite these challenges. We will always respect your time and other commitments and will do everything possible to work around busy schedules. In addition, we are going to intentionally incorporate activities and time to build a community with the group so that this can be a wonderful opportunity to form connections with other like-minded educators.

Feel free to reach out with any questions, suggestions or comments at