Will My Child Learn Green Chemistry?

Elise Miller, MEd
CHE Director

Every other week my seven-year-old goes with his buddy after school to ‘chemistry club’—meaning they spend an hour with a retired science teacher who taught in various schools for 40 years. His “lab” is something out of the early 20th century, complete with rows of dusty bottles with handwritten labels noting specific chemicals or simply “danger”, wires and gadgets that cover shelves and spill out of boxes, and an antique wood stove that never quite gets the room warm. He introduced the periodic table on the first day, and since then, has shown them everything from electromagnetic fields to explosive chemical reactions. The boys love him, even though he shifts quickly from one experiment to the next and gives them information that I recall not learning until at least high school.

Given the 20 years I have worked on environmental health issues, I observe this class both with exhilaration—watching these young kids get excited about learning how the world works, and with discomfort—wondering if they are protected enough from hazardous exposures, knowing all too well what certain contaminants can do to undermine healthy development.

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