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Pilots Needed! Help Enhance the New Green and Sustainable Chemistry Modules

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By Aurora Ginzburg, Ph.D., Education Program Specialist, ACS Green Chemistry Institute; and Jennifer MacKellar, Program Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute



In 2015 and 2020, the ACS GCI surveyed ACS members in higher education to evaluate the status of green and sustainable chemistry topics in the chemistry curriculum. The results from both surveys indicated substantial barriers to incorporating green and sustainable chemistry in the classroom. Some of the key findings in 2020 were:

  • The most common challenge that faculty reported facing in teaching green and sustainable concepts, besides lack of funding, was a crowded/full curriculum (74%). Additional barriers were a lack of knowledge about content area (39%) and a lack of textbooks and lecture materials (32%).
  • Among green and sustainable chemical concepts taught, faculty reported feeling least prepared to teach sustainability (42% somewhat/very unprepared).
  • When making changes to their curriculum, the top resources respondents were looking for were in-class activities (72%), lab experiments (70%), and homework activities (54%).

To address some of these challenges and needs, the GCI has been working with educators from institutions across the U.S. and Canada to develop modules for general and organic chemistry lecture courses. These modules are intended to lower the barriers for bringing green and sustainable chemistry into higher education classrooms. We are currently recruiting additional institutions and educators to participate in these pilots in 2021 and 2022.

These modules are designed to teach a foundational chemistry topic from the undergraduate curriculum using a green and sustainable chemistry lens. To do this, the modules explicitly incorporate green chemistry approaches, systems thinking, and the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each module is expected to cover approximately one week of class and include sufficient core chemistry content such that it can be readily implemented into the classroom. That said, we recognize that flexibility is critical and that the modules will need to support a wide array of course formats, sizes, and content structures. Each module will include instructional materials and notes using a variety of pedagogical strategies, a summative assessment, formative assessments, and out-of-class work. These units can be adopted as a whole or taken piece-by-piece to fit the needs of a given educational context.

While the module developers will be piloting the modules in their own courses, we are putting out this call for additional instructors who would be willing to pilot a module or two in their own general or organic chemistry class. During the development process, each module will be evaluated against a rigorous rubric prior to classroom piloting. The more feedback the module developers get, and the wider the variety of institutional settings and locations these modules are tested in, the more robust the final open-access materials will be.

Educators who pilot these modules will play an integral role in the module development process and will be acknowledged for their contributions. Prior to piloting, the GCI will meet with volunteers to train them on how to use a module and provide the most useful feedback for module revisions. 

To volunteer for piloting, please fill out this Google Form.

Below is a list of modules that will be ready for piloting in 2021 and 2022. You will have an opportunity to indicate which modules you would be most interested in piloting in the Google Form.

Note that there is an entire module on systems thinking that has activities appropriate for both general chemistry and organic chemistry courses. This is a stand-alone module and is not required to use the other modules, but instructors may find it helpful for introducing students to systems thinking.

General Chemistry

  • Introduction to systems thinking
  • The periodic table and sustainability
  • Reaction stoichiometry applied to evaluations of combustion reactions
  • Solutions chemistry through the lens of water as the universal solvent and contamination issues
  • Thermochemistry in the context of home energy use and energy sources
  • Introduction to equilibrium reactions using the Haber-Bosch process as a theme
  • Reaction kinetics in relation to plastic synthesis and decomposition
  • Intro to d-block elements and their applications in chemical synthesis and biological systems
  • Electrochemistry in the context of affordable and clean energy
  • Intro to organic chemistry - relating molecular structure to toxicity and environmental fate

Organic Chemistry

  • Introduction to systems thinking
  • Chirality and pharmaceuticals
  • Structure-property relationships for fuel additives
  • Solvent selection for greener SN1 and SN2 chemistry
  • Alcohol structure, reactivity and applications
  • Molecular evaluations of ethers and their industrial use
  • Aromatic substitution reactions for greener antiviral synthesis
  • Alkene and alkyne addition reactions
  • Pericyclic reactions using synthetic chemicals and biosynthesis
  • Green chemistry and sustainable synthetic design
  • Comparing traditional pharmaceutical syntheses to alternatives that employ greener reagents or take a biological approach.
  • The life cycle of polymers
  • Organometallic reactions and alternatives assessments

More modules are in the early stages of development and will cover additional content from these courses. Stay tuned to learn more about those! To see a full list of the educators involved in this project, and read supporting documents, please check out the Module Development Web Page.