New Resources from the AACT Chemistry & Sustainability Content Writing Team

By Monica Wixon on January 4, 2023

This past summer, AACT hosted a Chemistry & Sustainability Content Writing Team to develop chemistry teaching resources that draw connections to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The three teachers on the writing team created lessons that incorporated Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being; Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy; Goal 13: Climate Action; and Goal 14: Life Below Water. Each of the lessons developed for this content writing team has multiple parts spread over several days and would make good end-of-unit, end-of-term, or end-of-year projects.

Clean Air Chemistry

Shea Wickelson, a teacher at Salt Lake Center for Science Education in Salt Lake City, Utah, focused on Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being; Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy; and Goal 13: Climate Action for her lesson plan, Clean Air Chemistry. In this lesson, students learn about air pollution and some steps toward mitigating it.

First, students will burn a candle and measure its mass and the concentration of CO2 over time. Students will discuss which data set they have more confidence in and why and then use stoichiometry to predict outcomes. Next, students explore incomplete combustion in a model-based worksheet that shows how a lack of O2 in the burning of fuels can produce air pollution. Students work together to interpret the models, define terms, and draw conclusions. Lastly, students work in groups using Lego models to illustrate how a catalytic converter works. They race “Nature” (a student who wears gloves to make manipulating the Legos more challenging) against catalysts “Palladium,” “Platinum,” and “Rhodium” (gloveless students) to see what breaks down air pollution molecules fastest. Students will work together and have lots of fun while learning about the chemistry involved in preventing air pollution! There are answer keys available for all three student activities.

Solar Cookers

Deonna Lynch, a teacher at Scottsburg High School in Scottsburg, Indiana, incorporated Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being and Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy into her lesson plan, Solar Cookers. In this lesson, students learn about the use of alternative cooking fuels that could replace burning wood, coal, or other smoke-producing materials to heat and cook food in developing nations, focusing on solar cookers.

The lesson begins with having students watch a video and read an article that provide a general overview of the need for alternative fuels. Then, in small groups, students research, design, build, and test a solar cooker to determine if it is an effective method of cooking food in a developing nation. They give a presentation to the class on their design, test results, and any improvements they would make to their initial design, and they answer some reflection questions about the solar cookers made by their class and their role in the group project. This lesson has a lot of great opportunities for students to develop their engineering skills! Since students’ designs will vary greatly, data is not included in some of the answer keys, but sample calculations and responses are available where appropriate.

Investigating Seawater

Roxanne Spencer, a teacher at Ranney School in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, created a lesson plan called Investigating Seawater, which explores chemistry’s role in addressing Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation; Goal 13: Climate Action; and Goal 14: Life Below Water. In this lesson, students compare deionized water and seawater using their understanding of solutions, precipitation reactions, buffers, and more.

Students start by considering their water footprint and means to obtain fresh water from seawater using a solar still. To understand the differences between fresh water and seawater, students determine the composition of artificial seawater by using qualitative analysis to test for different ions in solution and calculate the molarity of different salts used in the recipe. Students observe the effects of solutes in aqueous solutions by measuring conductivity and the freezing and boiling points of seawater and deionized water and determine total dissolved solids. In addition, students explore the buffering ability of seawater and the effect of carbon dioxide on its pH. This lesson ties together many different chemistry concepts and skills, and it makes for a great culminating project! Answer keys are available with sample data for all four student documents.

We hope that you find these resources help your students see how chemistry can be used to positively impact sustainability efforts. If you have an original resource that you’d like to share with the AACT community, please send it along for consideration.