July 21, 2024

Students Teaching Students – Rewarding Chemistry

Three members of Gordon's ACS chapter in action. Courtesy of Fernanda Cerqueria.

By Catherine Pastoor ’21

Gordon College’s American Chemical Society (ACS) student chapter has been nominated for the ChemLuminary award for its work with the Oliver Partnership School.  

The program offers “monthly science clubs to the fourth and fifth grade students with the goal of reaching the high-achieving students and inspiring in them a love of learning and a passion for science,” said Quincy Dougherty (‘18), President of Gordon’s ACS chapter.

The Oliver Partnership School (OPS) is located in Lawrence, Massachusetts, an area where the majority (around 90 percent) of students come from low-income families. Additionally, OPS is ranked as a Level 4 school according to the standards of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, making it among the least improving and lowest achieving schools in Massachusetts.

Because of this, most of the school’s resources are dedicated to keep it from falling to Level 5, and much focus is placed on students who are at risk of failing.

The goal of Gordon’s ACS chapter with OPS is to reach high-achieving students and to cultivate their love of learning and science that may not be allowed to them otherwise.

Every month, ACS sends four to six Gordon College student to OPS to teach and interact with about 10 to 20 OPS students in the fourth and fifth grade. Each science club has a budget of 50 dollars, but “we often end up spending closer to 30 dollars,” according to Dougherty.

ACS incorporates the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry into their lessons and activities to teach their students that science can be both fun and safe. The activities with the students include making ice cream and silly putty to learn about physical and chemical reactions.

They play cell bingo and make animal cell cookies to learn about the parts of a cell, build houses out of beans and pipe cleaners to learn about green chemistry and social justice, and arrange activities with water and marbles to learn about biomimicry.

“After each science club we find that we have not only taught fourth and fifth graders about science and the importance of green chemistry, but have also learned from their excitement and curiosity,” says Dougherty. “Our ultimate goal is to inspire the children to imagine ways that they can make the world a better place with the knowledge of science and use of the Principles of Green Chemistry”


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