Materials World Modules

An Inquiry & Design-Based Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Program

Update on the Environmental Catalysis Module (Mar. 2003)

KGOn March 20, 2003, Prof. Kimberly Gray of the Institute for Environmental Catalysis at Northwestern University and her graduate student Alex Agrios held a workshop for area high school teachers at Glenbrook South High School (GBS) (Glenview, IL) on the various hands-on activities of the new MWM module called the Environmental Catalysis Module.

The project's goals include giving students a good understanding of what a catalyst is, emphasizing the scope of catalysis research today, and making them more aware of environmental protection.


Prof. Gray gave an introductory talk on these topics and described the four exploratory activities: The first activity introduces the concept of catalysis in a visual and dramatic way. Alex demonstrated the use of the catalyst platinum black and how the heat generated by the catalyst can cause paper (such as flash paper) to burn.

In the second activity, students conduct an Internet search on catalysis research to emphasize to them the personal relevance of catalysis with regard to environmental issues.

In the remaining activities, students analyze different types of catalytic systems, including homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, thermocatalysis, and photocatalysis, all of which are emblematic of a variety of research areas in environmental catalysis. In their study, students focus ecmon concepts such as catalytic selectivity, specificity, poisoning, condition optimization, and waste minimization.

In the culminating design project, students are challenged to design, construct, test, and evaluate a unique catalytic deodorizing device. GBS science chair Warren Bjork and Evanston Township High School (Evanston, IL) biology teacher Beth Christiansen attended the workshop, along with MWM staff Matthew Hsu and Jennifer Cocson and module science editor Alice Storti. Prof. Gray is working with Beth and chemistry teacher David Goodspeed at New Trier High School (Wilmette, IL) to field-test the module in their classrooms in May.



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