Wmc Professor Takes Chemistry Lessons To Moscow

Curriculum Applies Science To Society

February 16, 1992|By Cindy Parr | Cindy Parr,Contributing writer

WESTMINSTER — For Professor Don Jones, the subject of chemistry is more than molecular structures, elements and a laboratory filled with Bunsen burnersand beakers.

Fresh from a recent nine-day trip to Moscow, the Western Maryland College chemistry teacher and 19 other Americans introduced a more practical chemistry curriculum, known as ChemCom, to 120 teachers in what had been the Soviet Union.

"ChemCom is a program that tries to take societal issues and apply them to science," explained the 57-year-old Westminster resident, who has been teaching at Western Maryland for 29 years.

The ChemComprogram was started in 1981 and supported by the National Science Association. The program got its start in Carroll in 1990 and is offered in the county high schools.

The ChemCom curriculum found its wayto Moscow after Pavel Sarkisov, president of the Mendeleev Institute, attended a ChemCom teacher seminar at the State University of New York at Cortland in 1990.

"Pavel Sarkisov and other visitors from the institute were so impressed with the seminar that they invited theparticipants to come to Moscow," Jones said.

Due to scheduling conflicts and international problems, the trip was postponed until lastNovember, Jones said.

High school teachers from Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Illinois traveled to Moscow to explain the community-focused chemistry curriculum.

Designed for college-bound students, the curriculum explains science so individuals know the kinds of choices they can make in their society.

"We trained 20 teachers at six different locations in and around Moscow," said Jones. "It was a success.

"The teachers we trained really enjoyed the sessions, and they even invited us to come back."

Educators from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia were taught thecurriculum, which explores the relationship between science, technology and society.

"We presented the teachers with units on water and safety, to name a few. We walked them through and showed them how we would teach it," Jones said.

"For instance, in health, we presented data on smoking, health and economics. Once they receive the information, the students are asked to think about what they learned and then decide whether or not they are going to smoke."

In addition to the subject units, ChemCom teachers exhibited new laboratory techniques known as microscale chemistry.

By using small amounts of solutions to get reactions, microscale chemistry will help cash-poor scientists in the region conduct small-scale experiments.

During the training, Jones and other American teachers realized their hosts had little lab experience.

"This was a surprise, a real surprise to us," Jones said. "Even though they did not do a lot of laboratory work, the Soviet teachers were well-trained and interested."

Even thoughmost of the trip to Moscow focused on the presentation of the ChemCom curriculum, the Americans had time to visit other attractions.

The Moscow Circus, the Kremlin Ballet and evenings at the opera and theater were highlights.

Jones said perhaps the most memorable aspect of the trip was the people he met.

"The Soviets are really friendly people," he said. "They are very big on giving gifts, no matter how small.

"They gave us picture postcards, pins, and I was even given a traditional Russian tea warmer, among other things."

Jones appreciated the hospitality and friendliness, but said that many of the city's people are suffering.

Many Muscovites waited in long lines to buy scarce and expensive food.

"There always seemed to be a sufficient quantity of food for us," Jones said. "When we would be bused or walk to the restaurant for lunch from the school, we saw peoplestanding in line and waiting to buy food.

"People stood in a line, several blocks long, waiting to get into Russia's McDonald's. It was relatively expensive, too. I recall some Americans saying they spent several dollars for a Big Mac."

Throughout his stay, Jones foundthe sun to be an infrequent visitor, while snow and rain were common.

"The city of Moscow is basically quite depressing," he said. "There is much that needs to be repaired -- the buildings and sidewalks."

The many facets of the Russian city and its people made an impression on Jones -- so much so, that he hopes to return someday soon.

"I have been thinking about going back there in the near future," he said. "We would like to sponsor a workshop for the Russian people."

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