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Science & Technology

October 4, 2010
Volume 88, Number 40
p. 37

Green Outreach: The Beyond Benign Foundation

Stephen K. Ritter

Warner Babcock Institute
Opening Day WBI scientists, led by Warner (center), celebrate the move to a new state-of-the-art facility in Wilmington, Mass., in April 2009.
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“I used to have a rule that anyone in my academic research lab would have to go out once a month to an elementary school classroom and talk about their research,” Warner says. From 1999 to 2007, his group reached out to some 16,000 K–12 students in the Boston area. This effort in part earned him the 2004 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mentoring.

He’s continuing that effort—and much more—with the Beyond Benign Foundation, WBI’s nonprofit partner. “We at Warner Babcock are the beakers and flask research, and Beyond Benign is the outreach and training,” Warner says.

Warner asked Amy S. Cannon, the first graduate of the UMass Boston green chemistry Ph.D. program that he created, to be executive director of Beyond Benign. He also asked her to be his significant other—the two have been married for five years.

Beyond Benign specializes in green chemistry and sustainable science curriculum development, community outreach, and workforce training, Cannon says. For her and the half-dozen Beyond Benign staff members, one day it’s a hands-on activity for a group of Girl Scouts, the next day it might be hosting a field trip for high school students, she explains. They also have hosted internships for groups of undergraduates participating in the Department of Education’s Upward Bound Program for economically disadvantaged students. And through Beyond Benign’s college fellows program, student mentors from Massachusetts colleges and universities are linked up with K–12 classrooms and community groups.

Members of the staff sometimes jet off to another part of the U.S. or internationally to hold a teacher-training workshop, or they might conduct seminars or short courses on green chemistry at scientific conferences or participate in community events. They also hold “train the trainer” workshops in which they teach other scientists and educators to conduct their own workshops on green chemistry. Beyond Benign also runs an Art & Science Program, complete with an artist in residence, designed to “promote creative, social, and ecological strategies that expand on our mission,” Cannon says.

Altogether, nearly 60 people are active in helping Beyond Benign carry out its mission, a big jump from the three part-time people who helped get things started three years ago.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society
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