Green & Sustainable Chemistry Workshop for High School Teachers

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (06/27/2022)—The Department of Chemistry hosted eighteen high school teachers from Minnesota, South Dakota, and Maine for a three-day workshop (June 20-22) with the goal of learning how to integrate green and sustainable chemistry into their classrooms. The workshop, run by Professor Jane Wissinger and high school teachers Cassie Knutson Lydon (White Bear Lake HS) and Cassie Javner (Richfield HS), provided a background in Green Chemistry principles, biomimicry, and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. This provided context for chemistry’s role in a sustainable future and its interdisciplinary connection to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduation standards.

The participants gained hands-on experience with ten different laboratory experiments, representing safer and greener chemistries, to evaluate as additions or drop-in replacements for their curriculum. About one third of the experiments explored sustainable polymers experiments developed by Wissinger’s research group and the Center for Sustainable Polymers. As Beyond Benign Lead Teachers, Knutson and Javner provided guidance and discussion of experiments. Highlights of the experiments included the use of benign chemicals, minimal waste production, and meeting Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Time was allotted for each workshop participant to develop a green chemistry implementation plan. The goal was to incorporate at least two new experiments and/or or classroom activities in the upcoming academic year. All teachers earned Continuing Education credits (CEUs) from both the University of Minnesota and the state of Minnesota. Approximately half of the participants will earn graduate credits by submitting a report on successful inclusion of green and sustainable chemistry at their schools.

The workshop was funded by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, the University of Minnesota Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), Research Experience for Teachers (RET) program, and the NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP). The workshop leaders gratefully acknowledge the support of the Department of Chemistry, who provided laboratory space. They also thank Diana Mayweather, Patrick Schildt, Kylie Adams, and Mollie Dunlop for their contributions of time and effort to make the workshop a success.