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  • Timothy Cannon works on a green chemistry at a multi-day workshop for high school science teachers.
    07/19/18

    High school teachers learn about and experiment with green chemistry

Pam Fier-Hansen from Marshall High School and  Nikki Burnett from Baldwin High School in Kansas check the results of their experiment.
Pam Fier-Hansen from Marshall High School and Nikki Burnett from Baldwin High School in Kansas check the results of their experiment.

Professor Jane Wissinger hosted a workshop for high school science teachers focused on green and sustainable chemistry curriculum for their classrooms. Twenty-one teachers from across the state of Minnesota (as far as Morris and Moose Lake as well as local) participated in the multi-day workshop, July 17-19. In both classroom and laboratory learning experiences, the teachers learned about the principles of green chemistry, sustainability goals, and their application in addressing human health and the environment. 

The Center for Sustainable Polymers (CSP), in partnership with the Minnesota Corn Growers Association and the University’s Materials Research Science & Engineering Center (MRSEC) offered this free workshop. Wissinger is a CSP investigator and is a leading expert in green chemistry. Her co-hosts were Cassandra Knutson from White Bear Lake High School, and Cassidy Javner from Shakopee High School. Both Knutson and Javner are associated with the Materials Research Science and Engineering Center's (MRSEC) Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program. 



Tim Miller from Washburn High School documents the results on his experiment.
Tim Miller from Washburn High School documents the results on his experiment.

Workshop participants gained hands-on experience with safer, cost-effective labs that minimize waste and are drop-in replacements for traditional secondary chemistry labs. Accompanying resources illustrated how these materials can be adopted and meet current education standards. Highlighted experiments included making bioplastics from starch, use of poly(lactide) (PLA) for oil spill cleanup, greener precipitation reactions, use of iodine/starch or tea for Le Chatelier’s principle studies and more. Many experiments engage students through relevance to sustainability and their daily and future lives.

Teachers were tasked with developing an implementation plan on returning to their schools and commit to incorporating at least two green chemistry experiments or activities during their 2018-2019 academic year. Teachers completing the workshop earn Continuing Education credits from the University of Minnesota and optionally receive graduate credits from the Colorado School of Mines. 

Alumnae Page (Johnson) Kinner (left) and Lindsey (Walstrom) Smaka (right) are pictured with green chemistry expert and teacher Professor Jane Wissinger. Kinner graduated with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry in 2001 and her master’s in chemistry
Alumnae Page (Johnson) Kinner (left) and Lindsey (Walstrom) Smaka (right) are pictured with green chemistry expert and teacher Professor Jane Wissinger. Kinner graduated with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry in 2001 and her master’s in chemistry in 2005. Kinner worked with Wissinger while she was here and helped develop one of the department’s first green chemistry experiments. Her adviser was Professor Mark Distefano. Smaka obtained her bachelor’s in chemistry in 2008 and her master’s in education in 2012. As an undergraduate, she worked with Professor Marc Hillmyer. They are pictured with their mentor and green chemistry expert Professor Jane Wissinger.

Participants in the green chemistry workshop were, front row, from left, Britney House, Nikki Burnett, Jane Wissinger, Lindsey Smaka, Emily Trieu, Cassie Knutson, Page Kinner, Sharon Jensen, and Scott Olson; second row, from left, Jeremy Kersten, Tim Mill
Participants in the green chemistry workshop were, front row, from left, Britney House, Nikki Burnett, Jane Wissinger, Lindsey Smaka, Emily Trieu, Cassie Knutson, Page Kinner, Sharon Jensen, and Scott Olson; second row, from left, Jeremy Kersten, Tim Miller, Jason Schnoll, Tim Cannon, Matthew Brown, and Chad Benesh; and third row, from left, Madison Loppnow, Jason Belter, Sarah Atkins, Pam Fier-Hansen, Allison Crowell, Janelle Moe, Cassie Javner, and Collen DeVries.