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Schalmont High School

Evaluation of Schalmont High School Regarding its Ability to Implement the Principles of Green Chemistry in their Science Classes

Front of the Schalmont High School

Schalmont High School is a suburban, "average needs with average resources" (as categorized by the New York State Education Department (SED) school report card )* school located in the Town of Rotterdam in Schenectady County. The district has approximately 669 students in grades 9-12 with an average of 175 students per grade. The school offers a variety of science courses at the high school level (9-12) including Honors Chemistry.

Objectives

The goal of this case study is to ascertain whether or not this school can benefit from proper chemical management and the implementation of the principles of green chemistry. Additionally, a function of this study will be to provide evidence of the benefits, in terms of toxicity reduction and cost savings that can be used as educational tools to illustrate the value of proper chemical management and green chemistry to key stakeholder groups.

Work Performed

The project was funded by a grant from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, Region 2 (USEPA), administered by the Division of Materials Management's Toxic Reduction Section of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC). **

The study was undertaken in steps; the first being an evaluation of the need for assistance which included a site investigation by NYSDEC staff, to determine if the school was a viable green chemistry candidate. The second step included a commitment by school administration and staff to take the steps necessary to implement the principles of green chemistry for one school calendar year in their chemistry classes. The third step included completing green chemistry training conducted by NYSDEC staff and Beyond Benign, a non-profit organization contracted by the NYSDEC. Finally, the fourth step involved having the candidate school report back to the NYSDEC on their teaching results after implementing the principles of green chemistry in their high school classes.

Results

The overall methodologies used in this case study indicate that the format is successful. The study indicated that the school benefitted from proper chemical management practices and were made aware of the benefits as the chemical inventory and reorganization efforts conducted by the NYSDEC resulted in a 24% decrease in line item chemicals for the school's chemical laboratory. Evidence of these benefits were seen in the cost savings realized with the disposal of chemicals identified during the chemical inventory and re-organization process. If the school had hired a private contractor to do the inventory, transportation and disposal of the chemicals, the cost would have been $22,122. As NYSDEC and BOCES staff performed the work, the cost was $8,583, a savings of $13,539.

The workshop and training held as part of this case study enabled 32 science teachers representing eight counties in the Capital District region to become aware of the benefits of proper chemical management and green chemistry. This ensures that interested stakeholders have been made aware of the benefits of green chemistry with regard to toxicity reduction and cost savings.

Lessons Learned, Challenges and Opportunities

People conducting Green Chemistry

The greater volume of feedback and implementation of green chemistry experiments by the three Schalmont High School teachers highlighted the strength of having a team of teachers working together on a new concept rather than only having one teacher trained, as is the case of Liberty High School. This case study reaffirmed the belief that everyone benefits from a complete buy-in by all teachers and school administration. The entire team of teachers supporting each other provided great feedback to the NYSDEC. These three teachers went beyond the green chemistry experiments developed by Beyond Benign. They modified and adapted the experiments to fit the actual conditions in their classrooms for the ultimate effect.

The school did not have an up-to-date chemical inventory and the previous inventory revealed that 84% of the initial inventory was classified as toxic. The reorganization effort resulted in a reduction of 57% in total chemicals in stock, a decrease from 993.7 lbs. to 431.2 lbs. The quantity of highly toxic chemicals was reduced by 61%. As teachers adapt to a changing science curriculum which will include more green chemistry and fewer toxics, they will see further reductions in their chemical inventory. This study underscores the need for schools to have certified laboratory technicians on staff to manage chemical inventories. Opportunities exist to reduce the toxic nature of chemical inventories and improve safety at schools by implementing Beyond Benign's green chemistry curriculum which can provide at least 1,000 of the required 1,200 minutes for a course designed to culminate in the Regent's examination in Physical Setting/Chemistry Core Curriculum.

A copy of the full Evaluation of a Small Suburban High School Regarding its Ability to Implement the Principles of Green Chemistry in their Science Classes is available at Schalmont High School (PDF, 668 KB).

*The need/resource capacity index, a measure of the district's ability to meet the needs of its students with local resources, is the ratio of the estimated poverty percentage to the combined wealth ratio.

** Disclaimer: Although the information in this document has been funded wholly or in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency under grant # NP96296412 to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, it has not gone through the Agency's publication review process and therefore, may not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency and no official endorsement should be inferred.


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