The role of green chemistry activities in fostering secondary school students' understanding of acid–base concepts and argumentation skills
In a world where environmental degradation is taking on alarming levels, understanding, and acting to minimize, the individual environmental impact is an important goal for many science educators. In this study, a green chemistry curriculum—combining chemistry experiments with everyday, environmentally friendly substances with a student-centered approach that includes student–student discussion—was tested for its potential to increase the understanding of acid–base concepts and argumentative skills. A quasi-experimental design was chosen intended to take into account teacher/school nested effects. The study involved three classes of 150 16 year old Form Four students (1 experimental, N = 50; 2 control, N = 100) from two Schools A and B serving students from the same sociocultural and economic backgrounds taught by two teachers (Teacher A in School A taught 1 experimental and 1 control; Teacher B in School B taught 1 control). An ANCOVA with a pre-test as a covariate showed a statistically significant treatment effect as measured by an acid–base concept understanding test. Additionally, qualitative analysis of an Argumentation Skill Test (AST) shows that the experimental students used higher levels of argumentation skills following treatment than their peers in the two control classes. Implications are discussed for integrating green chemistry into the secondary school chemistry curriculum to teach the content on acid–base and green chemistry as a tool to assist the construction of arguments.