24th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference | June 16 - 18, 2020 | Seattle, WA

Systems Thinking in Chemistry Education, Research and Innovation

This workshop aims to advance the knowledge of systems and the application of systems thinking to the practice of chemistry through the use of key concepts, terminology, and examples of systems thinking in chemistry. Participants will engage in exercises that help them evaluate alternative approaches and/or design new solutions in the context of systems thinking. Examples will address systems chemistry in teaching, research and innovation. At the conclusion of the workshop, participants will have new strategies, approaches and resources that they can use to infuse systems thinking into their green chemistry efforts.

Overview:
I. Characterizing a system for a common item
II. Expanding systems thinking to the synthesis of a chemical
III. Getting more comfortable with the complexity of systems, boundaries and feedbacks
IV. Getting more comfortable with trading impacts through Alternatives Assessment

This Session will review and explore the scope and definition of systems thinking in chemistry education, as well as educational research and practice oriented by systems thinking approaches. It will also include a strong focus on the application of systems thinking to green and sustainable chemistry education and seeks to include interdisciplinary perspectives that can drive innovation in this area.

Reimagining Chemistry Education Through Systems Thinking

Organizers: Tom Holme, Morrill Professor of Chemistry, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA; Peter Mahaffy, Professor of Chemistry The King’s University, Edmonton, AB, Canada

Recent publications challenge chemistry professionals to transform chemistry so that it addresses emerging global challenges. Common themes in these calls for transformation include the integration of systems thinking into the practice of chemistry and a wholesale re-imagination of chemistry education to more effectively educate scientists and citizens to prepare them for their roles in a rapidly changing planet and society. This technical session will report on and guide efforts to reimagine chemistry education using novel systems thinking approaches throughout educational programs.

Systems thinking emphasizes the interdependence of components of dynamic systems. In the context of chemistry, systems thinking moves beyond isolated consideration of reactions and processes to consider where materials come from, how they are transformed and used, and what happens at the end of their life span. It draws attention to a need to balance the benefits and impacts of chemical substances and the role they play in societal and environmental systems. Applied to STEM education, systems thinking describes approaches that move beyond fragmented and reductionist knowledge of disciplinary content to a more integrated and holistic understanding of the field. A framework for using systems thinking in chemistry education places learners at the center of a system of chemistry education, suggesting tools and approaches to help instructors and curriculum developers see interconnections among the different components that are part of the learning of chemistry. Teaching chemistry through a systems approach challenges students to apply scientific principles to solve real-world problems, demonstrates chemistry’s role as an essential science in finding solutions to global challenges, and prepares future scientists for the collaborative interdisciplinary work required.

Elements of systems thinking have helped to drive developments in green and sustainable chemistry education. The successful application of the principles of green chemistry and engineering, the effective use of tools such as life-cycle analysis, and the development of novel molecular design strategies depends on considering the interconnectedness of reactions and processes with local and global systems. Building students’ capacity to integrate systems thinking into their chemistry problem-solving toolkit can yield new insights and create new opportunities for design and innovation. These strategies and approaches can help to stimulate and inspire further work and research more broadly within chemistry education in promoting and enhancing students’ systems thinking skills. They can also help students develop a deeper and more interconnected understanding of chemistry and related disciplines as a whole.

This session will review and explore the scope and definition of systems thinking in chemistry education, as well as educational research and practice oriented by systems thinking approaches. It will also include a strong focus on the application of systems thinking to green and sustainable chemistry education and seeks to include interdisciplinary perspectives that can drive innovation in this area.

Moving towards Green and Sustainable Chemistry Education: Rapid Fire Session

Organizers: Michael Wentzel, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Augsburg University, Minneapolis, MN, USA; Nicholas Kingsley, Associate Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, MI, USA

In this fast-paced and engaging symposium educators of all levels will share their innovations in making green chemistry content in lecture, laboratory, and outreach an important topic in teaching chemistry. The interdisciplinary nature of green chemistry opens the door to illustrating how greener organic synthesis, inorganic/enzymatic catalysts, renewable/degradable polymers and materials, biotechnology, toxicology, systems thinking and more can be used to inspire innovation in today’s students.

Learn how instructors are integrating new green chemistry materials in their curriculum to prepare students for their future careers especially those involving life cycle analysis. The rapid-fire session format gives each presenter up to seven minutes to highlight their work followed by three minutes for questions. Speakers will then participate in a panel discussion at the end of the session to create a forum for exchange of ideas and provide additional details according to the interest of the audience.

Polymers and Plastics in the Classroom: Educational Materials Demonstrating Life Cycle Thinking

Organizers: Jane E. Wissinger, Professor of Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, USA; Michael Wentzel, Associate Professor of Chemistry, Augsburg University, Minneapolis, MN, USA

The topic of plastics, both society’s dependence on them and their effect on human health and the environment, is one that resonates with students of all ages. Plastics are uniquely familiar as materials that, in some cases, can be recycled, yet most are accumulating in alarming quantities on land and in our oceans. New green and sustainable chemistry innovations in polymers and nanomaterials provide compelling lessons to engage learners in systems thinking. This symposium will share educational materials which illustrate components/examples of “closing the loop” through use of renewable feedstocks, green reaction conditions, applications in areas such of remediation or more environmentally-friendly products, and end-of-life considerations such as design for degradation and/or recycling. Case studies will include K-12, undergraduate, and graduate instruction as well are outreach initiatives.

Making Chemistry Greener and Safer

Organizers: Peter A. Reinhardt, Director, Office of Environmental Health & Safety, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA; Ralph Stuart, CIH, CCHO, Environmental Safety Manager, Keene State College, Keene, New Hampshire, USA

Some innovative green chemistry research can overlook chemical safety considerations in the laboratory. This may occur because of an incomplete picture of the whole system involved in assessing both chemical safety and environmental considerations of research. In recent years there have been significant developments in chemical safety informational tools, as well as hazard assessment methods for the laboratory and pilot plant that can be expanded to address both laboratory safety and green chemistry objectives. Better understanding and utilization of these tools and methods will help advance green chemistry and laboratory safety, in teaching and in research. This symposium will look at the interactions between laboratory safety and green chemistry practices and information tools by presenting case studies and exploring these emerging tools.