An Innovative Approach to Chemistry for NYS Schools
Schools in New York State are showing increased interest in 'greening' their science curriculums. A "green chemistry" approach in schools can reduce risks to students, teachers and the environment.
What is green chemistry?
In green chemistry, teachers assess the relative risks posed by the chemicals used in traditional chemistry experiments and select less-toxic materials to demonstrate green chemistry principles. By employing more environmentally benign reagents and solvents, green chemistry minimizes hazardous exposures that affect human health and the environment.
By adopting green chemistry, teachers and students learn to consider the impacts of the chemicals they work with throughout the chemical's life cycle, from use through disposal. In a green chemistry classroom, teachers and students alike will develop:
- Understanding of sustainability practices
- Understanding of how their decisions in the chemistry laboratory affect their health and the environment
- Increased awareness of chemical toxicity.
Why is DEC promoting green chemistry education in schools?
Chemicals are an essential tool for science teachers educating students to meet NYS Science Learning Standards and Core Curriculum. But when improperly managed, chemicals in schools can be dangerous to students, staff and the environment. Many schools have large inventories of chemicals that often include outdated and highly hazardous substances.
A green chemistry approach can save schools money by reducing the number of toxic chemicals they need to purchase, as well as reducing the need to dispose of them as of hazardous waste.
The Next Generation
Schools need to be able to prepare students for science and technology careers. Incorporating green chemistry principles into the curricula will give students a broad awareness of how to balance environmental, social and economic issues.
Green chemistry is the new frontier in science. It is critical for schools to begin teaching green chemistry principles to students at the high school level as the first step towards transforming how the next generation of chemists think and do business. By teaching green chemistry, today's teachers are poised to deliver new ideas in science and technology that will enhance sustainable practices.
How can I get started?
The first step for schools is to begin properly managing their chemical inventory. Most science departments want to do this, but they don't know how or are overwhelmed by the task. DEC can offer assistance to schools in chemical management.
What's in the works?
DEC's Toxics Reduction and Green Chemistry Section is conducting green chemistry pilot projects for New York's high schools as an innovative and safer approach to chemistry. These pilot projects include:
- Chemical assessment and inventorying
- Training in the development of chemical hygiene plans
- Green chemistry training workshops
- Green chemistry Summer Institute at Siena College
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