by Shinae Lee
We always hear about incredible missions’ trips to faraway places. Videos with soothing instrumental music in the background oftentimes showcase the trips, featuring smiling children and Gordon students serving a particular community. For some, however, all the planning and training (and money) that goes into being a part of a mission’s trip may be a little daunting and intimidating. Fortunately, we can always find true altruism somewhere on campus, and in this case, an organic chemistry class!
According to Professor Irvin Levy’s “Organic Chemistry” course syllabus, “The ability to communicate effectively is a key to success in scientific endeavors.” The course also offers a service component that aims to “engage a team of several students in the preparation of a useful end product to communicate the principles of green chemistry to an audience external to this course.”
One of these service projects includes outreach to the Oliver Partnership School (OPS). OPS is an underperforming school district in Lawrence, MA, composed of primarily ESL students. The school has had difficulty with low test scores, but its mission statement highlights their commitment to “provide students and families wraparound services and supports in a holistic approach to reach student learning goals.” Gordon College has been affiliated with the Oliver Partnership School through different programs, such as the service portion of some TGC classes.
The outreach, organized by the American Chemical Society student chapter at Gordon, consists of monthly Science Club meetings with 4th and 5th graders. The elementary school students are able to learn about Green Chemistry in Science Club.
The ACS also has coordinated outreach at locals schools in New York City, Boston and Rhode Island.
Green chemistry is about making chemical reactions safer and reducing harmful waste products–and doing so with minimal financial spending. During their monthly meetings, Organic Chemistry students planned fun lessons for the 4th and 5th graders, incorporating different chemical concepts as well as environmental factors.
Activities included decorating animal and plant cell cookies and making silly putty. The silly putty activity demonstrated how chemistry could be both safe and fun. The Gordon students also kids how to make ice cream with a bag of ice and salt, providing a hands-on opportunity to learn about chemical reactions.
The elementary school students were also tasked with a “real life” project: build the most houses with minimal spending and waste production. They needed to buy their own materials, including pipe cleaners and beads. This project was designed to demonstrate how green chemistry applies to real life problems.
Chemistry and Environmental Science student, Victoria Arau ’18, has a passion for educating others about green chemistry. As a member of this outreach project, she wants to “bring science to a place that doesn’t have it.”
Organic chemistry can be an intimidating subject, but it is very applicable. Arau said, “So much good can be done with it, and people tend to forget that.” Arau also believes in the importance of creation care. She sees Gordon as “a strong base to grow from,” and she is hopeful that the work with local outreach and Gordon’s involvement with the ACS will continue to “combine outreach with green chemistry and social justice.”
Enrolled in the Organic Chemistry course, Hannah Postma ‘18 chose OPS because “it sounded the most fun.” She sees the students enjoying the games and lessons that she and her teammates prepare, and how “it’s cool for them to see college students using science to help ‘reach’ them.”
Quincy Doughtery ‘17 is a president of Gordon’s ACS student chapter; she said in regards to the outreach ministry, “We love working with children and teaching them about green chemistry because they are the future!”
She and her teammates make “extensive effort in regards to planning, preparing, and practicing.”
This kind of outreach is so important and so powerful, and there are many ways for all of us to make a difference in a given community. It is important to remember that you do not always have to build a house in a foreign country to do something impactful. It is inspiring and wonderful to see peers doing good works with their skills. You can bring hope to local K-12 students by doing what you love and still be a part of something bigger than you are. And it won’t hurt your grades, either.