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The High School for Health Professions & Human Services

Evaluation of The High School for Health Professions & Human Services Regarding its Ability to Implement the Principles of Green Chemistry in their Science Classes

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The High School for Health Professions and Human Services

The High School for Health Professions and Human Services (HPHS) is a large, urban, "high needs to resources ratio" (as categorized by the New York State Education Department (SED) school report card)* public high school located in New York City in the borough of Manhattan. The school has approximately 1700 students in grades 9-12, with an average of 400 students per grade. The high school offers multiple levels of chemistry as well as other sciences.

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 works. The study showed that the school benefitted from proper chemical management practices as the chemical inventory was small and up-to-date. Unlike the other schools in the overall study, this school had previously completed a chemical clean-out of the chemical storage room in 2011. Unwanted chemicals were disposed of with assistance provided by the New York City Department of Education. HPHS did not require chemical management assistance from the NYSDEC. In addition, unlike the other three candidate schools in this study, this school had a full-time employee in charge of ensuring that the inventory was kept at a manageable level. The OSHA Lab Standard mandates that each laboratory has a chemical hygiene officer. Unlike the other three candidate schools, this school had a person in a similar capacity to that of a chemical hygiene officer and this was the main reason that the school's chemical inventory was up-to-date and manageable. Another significant reason may be the fact that schools in New York City lack storage capacity that more modern, suburban/rural schools have and are forced to keep inventories low. Additionally, the New York City Board of Education has published a Science Safety Manual which mandates adherence to OSHA regulations and requires that schools have a site safety officer and chemical hygiene officer on staff. It's worth noting that this was the only school in the study to take this approach.

The workshop and training held as part of this case study, enabled 30 science high school teachers, representing all five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island) of New York City, and an additional 13 observers from interested stakeholder groups to become aware of the benefits of proper chemical management and the principles of green chemistry. Green chemistry techniques and experiments have been implemented at the school and are under evaluation.

Lessons Learned, Challenges and Opportunities

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High School Science Teachers

Although this school did not require assistance from the NYSDEC with its chemical management they were seeking a more innovative approach to teaching chemistry in order to better motivate its students. The Assistant Principal was extremely interested in implementing green chemistry across the board in all chemistry labs. In addition, the team of teachers expressed a similar desire to try something new, safe and innovative. This case study demonstrated the importance of having strong administrative support in addition to enthusiastic teacher support. Regarding the chemical inventory, this case study showed the importance of having a small, up-to-date chemical inventory managed by a certified laboratory technician. The certified laboratory technician had the authority to order chemicals as needed rather than ordering in bulk at the beginning of the school year. This is the preferred manner in which to stock a chemical storage room as it lessens the number of chemicals in storage. This case study also showed that we need to have more "hands on" experiments and that the number of days and depth of content of the workshop should be increased.

A copy of the full Evaluation of an Urban High School Regarding its Ability to Implement the Principles of Green Chemistry in their Science Classes is available at The High School for Health Professions and Human Services (PDF) (976 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 its 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 endorsements should be inferred.


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