Chemistry Students Go Green
By Katherine Stephens ’14
A group of five students didn’t know what green chemistry was when they came to Gordon. Now it’s a key part of their lives.
These students, all in Professor Irv Levy’s organic chemistry class, are making a difference in schools around the greater Boston area by educating people about the benefits of green chemistry.
Green chemistry is an increasingly popular area of study that seeks to find ways for chemistry to be safer for human health and the environment. It relies on 12 principals that can be used to design or re-design molecules, materials and chemical transformations.
Maddie Kong ‘13, Owen Williams ‘14, Lauren Burns ‘13, Ean Mullins ‘14, and Justin Andrews ‘14 are fellows in the outreach program Beyond Benign, a branch of the Warner Babcock Institute for Green Chemistry. The mission of Warner Babcock is to apply the 12 foundations of green chemistry to whatever they could be researching or creating at the time.
“They realized that if they wanted to make a change, they had to start at the beginning, which is educating people about green chemistry, and that is what Beyond Benign does,” said Kong.
Beyond Benign, a non-profit organization, was created four years ago. Students in Levy’s organic chemistry class are required to participate in the program, but many students have chosen to continue with the program through an internship. These five students alone have each reached almost 100 students in various classrooms, and between 1999 and 2011 Beyond Benign has reached over 16,000 children.
This year the five students take their work, the GOlum (Green Org Literacy Forum) project, into various schools. Whenever they go to a school, they are provided with a toolbox that has the materials they need to conduct an experiment with the class and demonstrate how green chemistry works. They were also trained and equipped with specific points to use in the classroom in order to engage the students.
Burns said the goal is to educate people about the benefits of green chemistry, whether in the classroom or at various science fairs, presentations or on trips to the Museum of Science.
“We did one activity with the kids, where they were learning how to make batteries out of household, safe objects, and they were able to see the battery light up,” said Kong of her trips to Dorchester.
Another goal of Beyond Benign and the fellows is to help students realize their potential.
“We want to encourage kids that anyone can be a scientist, and anyone who is concerned about the earth and holistic education should be aware of green chemistry,” said Kong.
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