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Pure Appl. Chem., 2001, Vol. 73, No. 7, pp. 1209-1214

Teaching chemistry from a societal perspective

Sylvia A. Ware

Director, Education and International Activities Division, American Chemical Society, 1155 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036, USA

Abstract: Chemistry and chemical technology contribute to the quality of life on this planet in many areas: health, nutrition, agriculture, transportation, materials and energy production, and industrial development. Chemistry is at its most useful to society when chemists and non-chemists with decision-making responsibilities work with mutual understanding to address the chemistry-related issues facing their communities. Thus, it would seem obvious that all who study chemistry should learn about the interactions of chemistry and society as an integral part of their classroom instruction. However, historically, the tendency worldwide has been to include societal content in chemistry courses only at the lower secondary level. This is changing. This paper explores instructional materials developed by the American Chemical Society that place chemistry in its societal context for high school and college students. This includes a discussion of green chemistry materials that introduce students to the concepts associated with developing environmentally benign processes and products.