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Peer Review

Green Chemistry



Overall Numeric Rating:

4.25 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Jan 16, 2013 by Chemistry Editorial Board
Overview: The material is the page on Green Chemistry Educational Resources of the ACS portal. It is a precious source of references. I will not consider a) links to main ACS pages; b) links to general Educational Resources; c) general links to Green Chemistry; d) links to Books and Online resources. So I am left with Activities and Experiments, a heterogeneous collection of 12 learning resources with different styles and values. Though the 12 resources are under the header Activities and Experiments, only 5 of them are really concerned with activities. They are (the number will identify them in next sections): 1) Chemistry and Compost 2) Tree Ornament Crossword Puzzle 3) Cleaning Up With Atom Economy 4) Fuel Cells: Energy From Gases Instead of Gasoline 5) Green Chemistry Interactive Displays. The other resources are: 6) Bleaching With Green Oxidation Chemistry 7) Chemistry and Compost – Worksheets 8) Determination of the Fundamental Electronic Charge 9) Gassing Up Without Air Pollution 10) Green Chemistry: A Greener Clean 11) Phytochemistry Activity 12) Simple Green Cleans with Green Chemistry
Type of Material: A collection page with links to many materials. The materials themselves may belong to various types, mainly suggestions for experiments, but including also simulation, drill and practice, presentation.
Recommended Uses: The recommended use of the whole site is for teachers to see, at a glance, a spectrum of learning activities in Green Chemistry. For students, having a range of suggestions they can choose from, to plan experiments, study, or play.
Technical Requirements: PDF Viewer, PowerPoint (or equivalent)
Identify Major Learning Goals: The site purpose is providing access to materials in Green Chemistry that were selected and collected by ACS. The learning goal is making students familiar with concepts, problems and terms encountered in Green Chemistry.
Target Student Population: K-12 science teachers, instructors teaching chemistry at the undergraduate and graduate levels
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Some chemistry background, some activities/experiments require familiarity with teaching chemistry in a laboratory setting.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Item 1) (and 7) containing a small addition) is a flowchart for an experiment on composting different waste materials. The subject is relevant and the guidelines are complete. Other useful information is included: a link to Green Chemistry principles, a glossary, a discussion on biodegradable materials and carbon cycle, questions, and a section for teachers. 2) is a simple crossword puzzle. A means to have children learn some terms. 3) This activity consists in representing some reactions with molecular models and performing stoichiometric calculations to calculate a quantity called Atom Economy, defined as the fraction of total mass of reactants that is found in the desired product. Use of molecular models and stoichiometry are important issues in Chemistry. 4) contains directions for an electrochemistry experiment, in which electrolysis is first performed in various solutions with an external battery, then the battery is excluded and voltage is measured vs time. Electrochemistry experiments are an important part of introductory chemistry. 5) is a paper for teachers, a guide to setup four simple table-top interactive displays, to be used in expos. This ability is very important. The proposed activities are nice, colored, based on familiar objects. The experimental activity is very simple. 6) and 12) are two articles describing two commercial products that claim to be a green approach to cleaning and bleaching. The chemical considerations leading to the proposed solutions are explained. This is a good way to introduce practical green chemistry problems to the public. 8) is a paper in J. Chem. Ed. proposing an experiment to measure electron charge in a school environment. The experiment is well designed and the chance to directly measure a fundamental quantity is fascinating. 9) An article on biodiesel. Starting by explaining that plants are able to catch solar energy, it continues by remarking that biodiesel is made from plants and that its environmental impact is much better than fossil fuels. 10) is a Powerpoint presentation on Green Chemistry principles. It is a good scheme for a teacher wishing to prepare a lecture on this subject. 11) A short paper describing three natural compounds with anti-tumor or insecticide properties. A good example of natural compound use.
Concerns: 1) The experiment takes many days. Rate: 5.00 2) has no connection with Chemistry, besides using some words. The meaning of such words is not explained. Rate: 3.00 3) I don't like the concept of Atom Economy. It is based on mass only, and its use as a measure of (environmental) efficiency may be misleading and risks to neglect other factors, like nature, safety and cost of compounds and processes. Rate: 4.00 4) I must admit I was not able to fully understand the description. In the first stage, it suggests to "measure the voltage of the solution", I don't know what it means. In the last stage, the voltage is measured after excluding the battery, so the system resembles the charge and discharge of a storage battery, rather than a fuel cell. I could not recognize any component as a fuel. Rate: 2.00 5) The experiments consist in using commercial test kits with commercial product. The chemical significance may be hard to appreciate by a general public. Rate: 5.00 6) and 12) The style resembles advertising more than science discussion. It is hard for the reader to fully understand. Rate: 4.00 and 4.00 8) This experiment has nothing to do with green chemistry. It does not belong to this page. Rate: 3.00 9) The advantages of biodiesel over fossil fuels are not well documented and look exaggerated. Statements like biodiesel contains oxygen, therefore it is less polluting and produces no harmful exhaust are not supported by evidence, and this is not well educating a student. Rate: 4.00 10) Quotation of several proprietary products may make the reader suspect that the statements are biased in their favor. Rate: 5.00 11) The subject is rather specific and may not be interesting for a casual reader. On the other side, the presentation is too short for a really interested reader. Rate: 4.00

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: The presence of many learning resources in a single site is particularly useful for teachers and for any person planning and organizing learning activities. The authority of ACS ensures that the items were carefully selected from a wide choice, and that their classification (i.e. by school grade) is sound. The activities and experiments are in general self contained, making them easy to integrate into curriculum assignments.
Concerns: The included resources do not always meet the high standards one expects from an ACS site. Finding the right resource for their needs may be difficult for young students, due to widely different materials.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: The site has a clear and pleasant layout and is easy to navigate. The rich series of links to other ACS resources makes it easy to find additional useful information.
Concerns: There is some variation in quality and depth from one item to the next. THe books referred to are from products in the ACS Store.

Other Issues and Comments: As the ACS site on Green Chemistry education, this site is the main entry point for people wishing to explore the subject. Its quality is high, but not so high as one expects from an ACS site.