Planting the Seeds of Change in Chemistry Education

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By Jennifer MacKellar, Program Manager, ACS Green Chemistry Institute

As spring arrives in the Northern Hemisphere and the vaccine rollout continues, there is much to be hopeful for in the year to come. This spring, it seems the seedlings of change in chemistry education, planted by many over the years, are also beginning to emerge. Here in the ACS Green Chemistry Institute (GCI), our vision of influencing the way students learn chemistry in the undergraduate gateway courses (general and organic chemistry) is taking shape.  Starting in January, we began working with 36 educators from across the U.S. and Canada to develop green and sustainable chemistry (GSC) modules for these courses. Seeing these modules take shape is inspiring and exciting!

The participants represent a diverse set of institutions and perspectives (hear from one of our teams in the related article, “Creating Green & Sustainable Chemistry Education Modules”). Over the next two years, module developers and assessment consultants will work together to develop over 30 modules for general and organic chemistry. The modules will be rooted in teaching foundational chemistry content using green and sustainable chemistry principles and practices, and a systems thinking lens, with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals providing context.

Each module will be evaluated against a scoring rubric to ensure the goals of the module are met and to ensure the quality of the materials. Each module will be peer reviewed and classroom piloted before publication. The final year of the project (2022) will focus on outreach to encourage adoption of these modules and training for chemistry educators to more effectively teach green and sustainable chemistry.

The module development project is part of a larger, long-term strategic effort to fully integrate green and sustainable chemistry into the undergraduate chemistry curriculum.  The overarching goal for teaching through this lens is to empower students to use their knowledge of chemistry concepts and practices to create innovations that help solve grand sustainability challenges. We look forward to sharing these resources with the chemistry education community in the coming years. Please let us know if you would be interested in learning how to get involved with this project.