A teaching and learning community for green chemistry and a healthier future

Read the full story at Beyond Benign.

As our world faces existential threats such as climate change and ocean plastics, educators play a critical role in equipping students with the knowledge and skills to build a healthier and more sustainable future for our planet. Green chemistry is an upstream, preventative, solutions-oriented approach to creating a healthier future. Through the application of green chemistry, scientists and innovators can prevent the generation of pollutants and toxic compounds before they’re ever released into the environment or exposed to humans and animals, rather than cleaning up those pollutants afterward.

To enable and inspire the next generation of scientists and innovators to work sustainably, green chemistry must be taught widely in science and chemistry education programs. Cue the Green Chemistry Teaching and Learning Community (GCTLC), a joint initiative by Beyond Benign and the American Chemical Society (ACS) Green Chemistry Institute.

Being developed in collaboration with educators from across the U.S. and the world, the GCTLC will be a central online space where teachers, industry leaders and students can share best practices and resources, connect and collaborate, receive mentorship and feedback, and help each other through peer-to-peer learning.

In this Q&A, GCTLC Program Manager Dr. Jonathon Moir shares the goals, structure, and progress of this exciting new community.

Whiz kids: New tool teaches kids sustainable electronics coding

Read the full story at Centered.

A new computer coding tool created by Northwestern University engineers is enabling kids to build and program sustainable, battery-free, energy-harvesting electronic devices. 

They based Battery-free MakeCode on the learn-to-code platform Microsoft MakeCode. The visual program makes learning easy by dragging and dropping pre-made code blocks — similar to the building block video game Tetris — to program electronic devices and create apps.

USGS Water Science School

The USGS Water Science School offers information on many aspects of water, along with pictures, data, maps, and an interactive center where you can give opinions and test your water knowledge. The site includes multi-lingual resources for all ages.

4-H Teen Environmental Impact Survey

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Working together with The Harris Poll, National 4-H Council wanted to better understand how teens feel about the environment. Nationally, we surveyed a diverse group of 1,500 teens from 13-19 years old exploring their concerns about — and commitment to — protecting the environment. Our goal was to represent their unique voice and create a conversation about their evolving relationship with the outdoor world.

Steps to Designing Justice-Focused Assessments in Science

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This resource outlines a nine-step process to help teams develop Framework-aligned assessment tasks in science focused on justice-centered phenomena and scenarios. It builds on the thinking about 3D assessment design from STEM Teaching Tool #29 (from March 2020), but has been significantly revised.

Justice-focused assessments are assessments where students use science knowledge and engineering design practices to solve problems involving matters related to the unequal distribution of consequences (e.g., benefits, harms) to communities that result from human-nature interactions and/or unequal voice of communities in matters affecting their thriving and sustainability. Justice-centered assessments are pertinent when assessing performance expectations that require students to engage in engineering practices, because such practices involve developing and testing solutions that address human needs. In addition, justice-centered assessments engage students with the idea of science as a human endeavor, as called for in the Nature of Science connections of the NGSS.

Sustainability by design

Read the full story from North Carolina State University’s College of Design.

Students are gaining real-world experience while reducing waste in a new project sponsored by Eastman. The company challenged NC State industrial design seniors in the College of Design to create consumer products with sustainability top of mind. 

The students’ design concepts will help Eastman have deeper conversations with consumer brands who want to be more sustainable but may not know exactly how to launch such products. “The goal is to help more brands adopt sustainable materials in order to make a significant impact on the environment,” said Anders Ludvigsen, market development manager at Eastman.

Smithsonian Science Education Center launches new biodiversity guide for youth

Read the full story from the Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian Science Education Center, in collaboration with the InterAcademy Partnership, announces the launch of Biodiversity! How can we balance the needs of people with the needs of other living things? This community research guide for youth ages 11–17 is the newest guide in the Smithsonian Science for Global Goals series. Based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, it aims to help young people understand the relationship between people and other living things in their community to ensure a more sustainable world.

The other guides in the series are:

Early Childhood STEM Education for Sustainable Development

Campbell, C., & Speldewinde, C. (2022). “Early Childhood STEM Education for Sustainable Development.” Sustainability 14(6), 3524. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063524

Abstract: Early childhood education is crucial for the development of young children’s understanding of the natural world. Children have a role in sustaining a viable environmental and social future. This research interrogated key ideas concerning STEM education for sustainable development, drawing on seminal research and a range of government policy documents to formulate a futures-oriented approach to supporting children to build understandings in early childhood sustainability. Through the use of ethnography, a research methodology that uses both participation and observation of research participants, it became apparent that young children’s play-based learning enabled agentic responses in aligning with early understanding of STEM and sustainability. Using accepted descriptors of international Sustainable Development Goals within an early childhood research study, the research highlights how the development of interactive, learner-centred STEM teaching not only enables investigative, action-adapted learning, but also fosters independent learners who are responsive to their natural environment. The implication of this research is that further development of children’s environmental agency is suggested by the authors. The introduction of a whole-of-kindergarten approach that focuses on the systemic development of quality STEM education is posited as an avenue for educators to build young children’s understandings of sustainable development.

Evanston Public Library’s first annual Blueberry Awards highlight nature, sustainability in children’s literature

Read the full story at the Daily Northwestern.

Slimy insects, invasive species and hidden foxes brought home the prize this week as some of the subjects of Evanston Public Library’s inaugural class of Blueberry Award-winning books.

EPL designated 26 awardees, including one winner and six Blueberry Changemaker honorees, for excellence in ecologically-focused children’s literature intended to strengthen young readers’ connection with nature and encourage stewardship of the environment.

Higher Education for Sustainability: A Critical Review of the Empirical Evidence 2013–2020

Probst, L. (2022). “Higher Education for Sustainability: A Critical Review of the Empirical Evidence 2013–2020.” Sustainability 14(6), 3402. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14063402

Abstract: Higher education for sustainable development (HESD) has grown into a substantial field of research and practice. HESD proposes that higher education will be central in a transition towards more sustainable socio-ecological systems. However, the debates on what should be learned in HESD and how this should be learned have remained conceptually controversial and empirically inconclusive. This review examined the evidence that specific pedagogies and content lead to specific “sustainability outcomes” among graduates. Three hundred and fifty-seven studies published between 2013 and 2020 were analyzed. The reviewed research was case-driven and often undertheorized regarding learning processes and outcomes. Despite its volume, the literature did not provide coherent insights into what should be learned and how. If the project of HESD is to be pursued further, more courage will be needed in creating novel forms of higher education, while more purpose and conceptual precision will be required in future research.