Wednesday, September 11, 2019

For Immediate Release

Teachers Investigate Innovative Solutions
to Environmental Challenges

Fitchburg, MA – How can green chemistry, biomimicry, and real-world technologies be used to address environmental challenges of today? To learn about innovative solutions for a more sustainable world, middle and high school teachers participated in the Wade Institute for Science Education’s Summer Professional Development Institute from July 15-19, 2019. Educators gained a deeper understanding of global sustainability efforts across disciplines by participating in hands-on, minds-on investigations at local STEM-focused organizations. The Institute was based at Fitchburg State University and coordinated by Beyond Benign.

Throughout the week, participants explored how industry and academia are working to understand climate change and to design more eco-friendly products and processes. Teachers were introduced to the principles of green chemistry and the concept of biomimicry through an interactive matching game led by Fitchburg State University faculty. They delved deeper into green chemistry with educators from Beyond Benign by engaging in safe, energy efficient and non-toxic labs, such as making their own product packaging from raw organic materials. Educators examined the effects chemical products and processes have on human health and the environment, and considered applications of biomimicry to develop everyday products.

At Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, participants transitioned from learning about nature to learning from nature as a source for solutions to human problems. By looking closely at biological structures and discussing their functions, teachers modeled the processes of scientists and engineers who use biomimicry in their designs. Thinking about sustainability on a global scale, educators investigated the role of forests in mitigating climate change by conducting hands-on field research at Harvard Forest, and refined their environmental awareness of ocean plastics using visual literacy techniques at The Revolving Museum’s Eco-Art Mobile.

Following the institute, teachers developed their own inquiry-based lessons to bring the concepts of green chemistry, biomimicry, and real-world technologies to their classrooms. By exploring these topics as learners and reflecting on their teaching practice, these educators are more equipped to model with their students the ways in which scientists, engineers, and artists creatively design sustainable solutions for current environmental challenges.

The Wade Institute for Science Education’s Summer Professional Development Institutes provide educators with an opportunity to enhance their current curriculum with inquiry-based activities that they experience and test from the student perspective. Participants reinvigorate their love of learning as they think ahead to the next school year and collaboratively consider ways to engage their students in more hands-on, minds-on learning. For the past several years, a variety of local STEM-focused organizations and businesses in the North Central region have partnered with the Wade Institute for Science Education to provide real-world experiences and hands-on, minds-on learning for teachers.

The North Central Region 2019 Summer Professional Development Institute was held by the Wade Institute for Science Education in partnership with Beyond Benign and in collaboration with Fitchburg State University, Harvard Forest, The Revolving Museum and Mass Audubon’s Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary. Learn more at:


The Wade Institute for Science Education specializes in providing inquiry-based, hands-on, minds-on, science, technology and engineering professional development for K-12 teachers and informal educators.  For more information, visit or call 617-328-1515.

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