This winter, Professor Laurence Peterson has been teaching high school chemistry at the American School in Puerto Vallarta (ASPV) while on a leave of absence from his full-time teaching at Kennesaw State University (Atlanta, GA). Under the auspices of the Science Coaches program sponsored by the American Chemical Society (ACS), Peterson has been teaching one day each week along side ASPV’s chemistry teacher, Adam Kilner.
Peterson has brought into the classroom some of his practical experience in the chemical industry to enable the 24 junior level students taking chemistry to understand how chemistry impacts their everyday life.
The students at ASPV have learned about the use of bromine compounds to fire-retard plastics, the production of fuel-grade ethanol from corn, the availability of “green” polyesters to make plastic beverage bottles based upon poly lactic acid that readily biodegrade in the environment as well as the adverse implications from the human consumption of ethanol-containing beverages. The latter subject was taught using an online, freely-available case study from Chemcases.com developed by funding from the National Science Foundation and designed to teach both the chemistry of alcohols as well as their physiological effects.
The Science Coaches program sponsored by the ACS is designed to bring experienced teachers from academia and industry into the high school classroom to help make chemistry more interesting and relevant as well as attract more students into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers. The ACS provides grants for equipment and supplies to participating schools while teachers like Peterson donate their time to help bridge the gap between theory and practice in science education that are worldwide concerns.