Social and Environmental Justice in the Chemistry Classroom

A new paper has been published by Dr. Grace Lasker, and fellow MoDRN researchers. MoDRN (Molecular Design Research Network) is a Green Chemistry and Green Engineering initiative, which focuses on the rational design of chemicals and materials to reduce toxicity. This multidisciplinary effort is led by four universities who are addressing one of the key questions in environmental science: How can we reduce the toxicity of new chemical substances? This new paper, published in the Journal of Chemical Education, details new instructional strategies needed to add relevancy to the life of a chemistry student.

Paper Abstract: Despite advances in active learning pedagogy and other methods designed to increase student engagement in the chemistry classroom, retention and engagement issues still persist, particularly with respect to women and minorities underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programs. Relevancy also remains elusive in the chemistry classroom, where real-world issues of social justice, health, and the environment are largely missing from chemistry curricula. As a result, students struggle to understand their role as change agents and global citizens with leadership responsibility toward developing solutions to these justice issues, particularly as they relate to chemistry and manufacturing industries. Green chemistry curriculum developed by groups such as the Molecular Design Research Network, Beyond Benign, Greener Education Materials for Chemists, and others is available for faculty to seamlessly integrate topics of social, health, and environmental justice problem-solving into their classes, with a focus on educating future chemists who recognize their role in solving (or preventing) global justice issues. The purpose of this paper is to share new instructional strategies needed to add relevancy to the life of chemistry students.