This letter is a response to the April 5th Viewpoint and a further substantiation of the need for education about polymers in K-12 curricula.
Modification of the 3Rs for young people is a reality. This idea is not unique within the United States. The Intersociety Polymer Education Council, which consists of the Society of Plastics Engineers, American Plastics Council and American Chemical Society, and the Akron, Ohio-area schools laid the groundwork for this education process several years ago.
The Akron area is blessed with a wealth of talent and resources including an active SPE section and teachers at all levels that have knowledge about polymers. These programs, along with a great deal of industry interest, connect to provide an excellent foundation to promote polymers within area schools.
Two dedicated pioneers in the polymer education arena are Melanie Stewart, originator of the high school flagship program for polymers, and Nancy Clem, director of the Akron Polymer Training Center at the University of Akron. They were instrumental in bringing the industrial sector and processors into the education loop.
These efforts were complemented by my involvement as past president of the Akron Section SPE and current director of Polymer Ambassadors for the IPEC.
The western Massachusetts planning-stage discussions referred to in the Viewpoint are an ongoing reality and have been for the last seven to 10 years. The discussions have resulted in several pre-college programs that begin training in grade, middle and high school. In these cases, students take classes that promote polymers, compounding, processing, and testing.
At the college level we have created a variety of courses that are available at the Akron Polymer Training Center. The university also offers full-fledged polymer science and engineering classes for undergraduate and graduate degrees.
On the national scene, polymer outreach is complemented by 10 polymer ambassadors located throughout the United States. These premier, high-energy teachers provide many services, including in-services to teachers and training sessions to promote polymers to IPEC member societies.
These polymer ambassadors are the backbone of our Council. A comprehensive polymer education gives students the opportunity to get involved at any level.
IPEC and sponsoring societies continue to rethink the entire educational picture and add new features. Occasionally we even come up with some new letters of our own. This is all in the interest our vocation in the polymer industry and the education of our children.
David R. Schultz