By Ashley Baker, Scientific Content Manager (Contractor) at the ACS Green Chemistry Institute
For the many people and organizations hard at work to infuse green chemistry into the chemistry curriculum, 2023 was a milestone year. The 2023 ACS Guidelines for Bachelor’s Degree Programs included, for the first time, knowledge of the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry as a critical requirement. The ACS GCI partnered with Beyond Benign to launch the Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community (GCTLC), centralizing peer-to-peer learning, sharing, connection, and mentorship. Chemistry education was also at the forefront of the chemistry community’s efforts to align research and innovation with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (U.N. SDGs). This ranged from a new workshop providing green chemistry training to undergraduate educators at the ACS Fall 2023 Meeting in San Francisco to the ACS Sustainability Summit: Reimagining Chemistry Education.
Keeping this momentum, the ACS Green Chemistry Institute and educators from over 45 institutions recently launched the first three modules in the “Green Chemistry and Systems Thinking in Chemistry Education” project. Ultimately, there will be more than 30 modules containing all the materials instructors need to incorporate a systems thinking perspective, references to the U.N. SDGs, and green chemistry concepts seamlessly into undergraduate coursework. To avoid the need for adding content that would challenge instructors’ schedules, the modules are built around topics central to the curricula of standard general and organic chemistry classes. By connecting to broad sustainability topics, the coursework empowers students to become innovative systems thinkers who can help solve global sustainability challenges.
Three of the modules are available now (with three more coming soon) for you to explore and try out in your classroom! Learn more about what each module contains and how it helps undergraduates better understand chemistry on the ACS website. ACS GCI will periodically release additional modules throughout 2024-25. The materials will also be cross-listed at the GCTLC platform where they can be discussed and users can collaborate on iterative, more customized revisions. If you have thoughts or suggestions on a module, please send us your feedback at email@example.com and set up a profile on the GCTLC to discuss with your colleagues.
This module introduces fundamental concepts of systems thinking. Students will learn how systems thinking is essential to the practice of green chemistry, and how it is key to solving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (U.N. SDGs). This module is unique in that it is also designed to be useful to instructors who are new to systems thinking in chemistry.
"The general and organic chemistry curricula are already packed. Most of the Green Chemistry Education Modules are designed to be drop-in replacements for existing learning materials," explains Dr. Katherine Aubrecht, Associate Professor at Stony Brook Univeristy and Module Co-Author. "The modules focus on core chemistry concepts, but connect these to grand challenges and the important role of chemistry in addressing them. There are a couple modules that introduce content that may not currently be included in most general and organic chemistry courses. One of these is the "Introduction to Systems Thinking in Chemistry" module that Dr. John Randazzo [Assistant Professor at North Park University] and I developed. This flexible module is designed to serve as a foundation and introduction to systems thinking in chemistry classes. It is intended to introduce both students and instructors to key systems thinking concepts and terminology and how they connect to chemistry concepts, particularly green and sustainable chemistry."
Organic chemistry students will learn traditional concepts of stereochemistry through the practical context of the World Health Organization’s Model List of Essential Medicines. In addition, students will be able to explain some implications of stereoisomerism concerning health and well-being.
“This module was designed with busy college educators in mind!" says Dr. Kendra Denlinger, Teaching Professor at Xavier University and Module Co-Author. "You'll teach all the traditional stereochemistry concepts through the lens of sustainability and systems thinking, so you can use it seamlessly with any textbook or teaching philosophy!"
In this module, students learn the physical properties of gasses and can implement the ideal gas laws for gas samples in specified conditions. These skills will culminate in students’ ability to assess environmental consequences, hazards, and risks of chemical reactions involving gas phase components.
Dr. Amy Chu, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Saint Mary’s College of California, and Ideal Gases Module author explains what makes this coursework unique, "Each module activity focuses on one or two examples related to the Haber-Bosch process to allow students to explore the impact of a single reaction on energy use, food consumption, society, and the environment. It is designed to be quite modular - instructors can choose to only incorporate specific activities and assessment questions into their courses and still achieve the overarching learning objectives of practicing green chemistry and systems thinking skills.”
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