An interactive planetary boundaries systems thinking learning tool to integrate sustainability into the chemistry curriculum

Sustainability has a molecular basis that suggests a central role for chemistry in addressing today’s challenges to Earth and societal systems, and this role requires educators to see chemical reactions and processes as integral parts of dynamic and interconnected systems. Despite this prospect, few accessible resources are available for students and educators to facilitate systems thinking in chemistry for sustainability. We have developed an interactive digital learning tool (https://planetaryboundaries.kcvs.ca) based on the Planetary Boundaries framework, which uses interactive visualizations to help users better understand Earth system sustainability challenges and helps chemists and educators connect substances, reactions, and chemistry concepts to sustainability science. The tool highlights the fundamental role that chemistry plays in regulating the individual biophysical Earth system processes and in determining their control variables. It incorporates key features of a systems thinking framework by illustrating the dynamic interconnections among the processes and their control variables and demonstrates change of the Earth system over time. Finally, the interactive tool provides educators with accessible entry points to support the integration of chemistry curriculum content with sustainability considerations.

MacDonald R. P., Pattison A. N., Cornell S. E., Elgersma A. K., Greidanus S. N., Visser S. N., Hoffman M. & Mahaffy P. G., in press. An interactive planetary boundaries systems thinking learning tool to integrate sustainability into the chemistry curriculum. Journal of Chemical Education. Article (subscription required).

 

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