Building Concepts of Sustainability and Community into Undergraduate Science Curriculum
5/2/2011 8:58 AM
Professor Mala Barik, Adjunct Faculty in Chemistry, is one of the recipients of the 2011 Heritage Adjunct Recognition and Appreciation Teaching Award (HARATA). Her blog entry describes her efforts to integrate sustainability principles and community engagement in her undergraduate chemistry classes. Thank you for sharing, Mala.
Mary James (right) of CILT presents HARATA award to Mala Barik, Adjunct Faculty in Chemistry.
Introduction: I have developed six projects related to chemistry and environmental science for my undergraduate chemistry and physical science classes at Heritage University. The main goal of assigning these projects to my students is “to enrich the quality of life for students and their community”—Mission of Heritage University. Furthermore, I make a connection between my curriculum and environmental sustainability through these research based projects(collecting information). I feel it’s a great way of incorporating students’ environmental knowledge gained through research into my chemistry and physical science curriculum.
Project topics: 1. Household chemicals 2. Nitrate contamination in ground water 3. Health effects of food preservatives and additives 4. Water pollution in Yakima’s water 5. Medicinal values of food such as garlic, honey, blue berry etc. 6. Creating a healthy and clean environment
Learning Outcomes: Meet several educational goals of Heritage University which are based on educational standards in science. Learning outcomes that match the University’s educational goals follow at the end.
Instructional Strategy: The instructional strategies I use for the project assignment are:
I. Students do: researching info from reliable sources, surroundings, evidence, collecting data, analyzing, discussing, reflecting, and
II Teacher do: as a whole educating students who share scientific knowledge in their community.
How I incorporate: I make scientific connections between the students’ research information and several topics taught in the curriculum. For example—
Introduction to chemistry: In this class students study acids/ bases, and types of chemical reactions such as neutralization. They research about household chemicals – hazardous chemicals, handling safely while using, storing, and disposing of wastes. I plan a lab to “test acid/ base using different indicators, in various household products—such as wood floor cleaner, glass cleaner, shampoo, vinegar, drain cleaner, etc”. Students observe through change in colors of indicators in each product either acid or a base is present. This lab really emphasizes and makes a good connection with their project. Students learn that they need to carefully handle these products, not to mix two products, to always read the labels, and to store these chemicals considering safety.
In General chemistry: Students study that nitrate compounds are very soluble ones, and they do the qualitative test of nitrate ion in the lab class. In their project assignment – “Nitrate Contamination in Ground Water” or “Water Pollution in Yakima’s Water” they do the tests of nitrate in different samples of water, and link that to their topic. Also, since the nitrate that causes “Methamoglobimenia in babies”, is soluble in water, students think of strategies for reducing or eliminating nitrates from drinking water. Students learn and inform in families and community that overconsumption of fertilizer is causing health problems, so we need to think of reduction of nitrates from ground water through means such as charcoal adsorption or bio-remediation, before drinking.
Next, in the other project—“Medicinal Values of Food”, students bring information through research that blueberry has antioxidant properties, and can solve cardiac problems; garlic and turmeric are antibiotics; honey can soothe the system during cough and cold. In addition the old but “gold” saying is –“An apple a day, keeps a doctor away.” So, students learn the potential to have a food as the cure of a health problem rather than to always consume any drug/ medicine.
In Organic and Biochemistry: The Project is –“Health effects of food preservatives and additives”. Students learn various organic compounds such as esters, aldehydes, carboxylic acids, amine, and amides. Students understand the names of food preservatives and additives when they read the labels on the preserved food. They learn through research that these chemicals generally cause digestion problems, nausea/ headache, blood pressure, and even cancer. Students learn that they will not go for the colorful food or shelf food/ preserved -foods, rather they will mostly cook and consume foods that are free form chemicals. Also, they think about other options to store food such as sundry or freezing, using only salt (health amount) in pickles and not sodium benzoate to preserve.
Reflections: Some of the students’ comments are as follow
- Medicinal value of food—I learned to apply the last chapter [Oxidation-reduction] to my research- antioxidant property of blueberry; iodine in sea-food can be linked to obesity and type II –diabetes, and so on…
- Nitrate problem: Even reverse osmosis is not a way to remove nitrate form water, using calculated amount of nitrate fertilizers or other options
- Household chemicals: My husband used to have problems in work for cleaning floor because he used to add ammonia and bleach to clean, but he won’t do it anymore. Reading label before buying a product is very important, even date of expiration for medicines.
- Water pollution: Plastic leaches bisphenol-A—a carcinogen in water. I will stop feeding my baby from plastic bottles.
- In general ( many students commented): I learned a lot through research on project topic and the chapters in the class.
EDUCATIONAL GOALS: Through these projects, I found that the following educational goals are being met
Undergraduate Curriculum Committee March 19, 2010 Revision 4 General Education Goals
Students will be able to – (Heritage University’s goals)
1) Knowledge of the Physical World and of Human Cultures
a) possess the knowledge of the physical world and scientific methodology necessary to engage in informed discussions regarding currently relevant issues in science and society.
b) explain contributions of scientific knowledge and impacts of chemicals in our environment and on us.
2) Intellectual and Practical Skills
a) employ the appropriate methods to find, evaluate, produce, share, and use information.
b) ask questions, think systematically, and answer their questions by analyzing information based on the research and evidences collected, or conducting investigations.
c) demonstrate communication skills through presentation and use of visual media in a variety of contexts.
d) construct valid and sound arguments.
e) employ the scientific knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their disciplines and to contribute to their communities and to society.
f) express themselves creatively through experience in science.
3) Personal and Social Responsibility
a) display the emotional competence, self-awareness, and resilience to maintain a sense of well being.
b) interpret and explain issues impacting society including issues( blue baby syndrome, hazards from household chemicals, water pollution) of sustainability.
c) develop knowledge of the interconnections among ecological, social, and economic systems.
d) practice personal, professional, and academic ethics in the appropriate contexts.
4) Integrative and Applied Learning
a) synthesize and apply the knowledge and skills gained through their university experience in the contexts of their fields.
b) bring what they have learned about personal and social responsibility into practice in service for the community.
B y- Archana Mala Barik, Chemistry Adjunct
M.S. Chemistry, B.S. Chemistry and Biology, BA. Education
Heritage University, Toppenish, WA