Forward from the CHEM Study Story
By Glenn T. Seaborg
One evening near the end of 1959, l was met at the Washington airport, upon arrival from the West Coast, by a zealous group who had a visionary plan to press upon me. Bradford R. Stanerson, Harry Kelly, and Arthur Roe, representing the American Chemical Society and the National Science Foundation, whisked me off to the Cosmos Club, where they described their idea for a new high school chemistry course, and persuaded me to assume the responsibility for its development. Although my heavy schedule as Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, and numerous other commitments should have made me decline this added responsibility, the unusual circumstances of our meeting and the ardor of the group led to my somewhat bewildered acceptance. This was the birth of the project whose history is so ably told in these pages by the participants themselves.
The CHEM Study Story is a complete chronicle of the events that were set in motion by that encounter. Because of the selfless devotion and hard work of its numerous participants, the CHEM Study can be considered beyond doubt a success story.
My acceptance of the responsibility for this project was contingent on its obtaining the services as Director of my long-time friend and a master teacher, J. Arthur Campbell, of Harvey Mudd College at Claremont, California. Art immediately accepted this assignment, and we agreed that the project should have a second center at Harvey Mudd College, in addition to the one at the University of California, Berkeley. It was he who suggested the descriptive name for the project-the Chemical Education Material Study, or, briefly, the CHEM Study.
Art and l drew up a list of prospective members for a Steering Committee, every one of whom (except one who would be out of the country) accepted the invitation and gave generously of his time throughout. (The members are listed in Appendix A-1.) At the first meeting of the Steering Committee, on January 9, 1960, in Berkeley, the objectives were conceived and an approximate time schedule was drawn up.
The general objectives of the Study were to develop new teaching materials for the high school chemistry course, including a textbook, laboratory experiments, and films. The more specific objectives were to diminish the then current separation between scientists and teachers in the understanding of science, to stimulate and prepare those high school students whose purpose was to continue the study of chemistry in college as a profession, to encourage teachers to undertake further study of chemistry courses geared to keep pace with advancing scientific frontiers, and thereby improve their teaching methods, and to further even in those students who would not continue the study of chemistry after high school an understanding of the importance of science in current and future human affairs. It was decided from the first to have the course be strongly based on laboratory experiments and be applicable to all students who take high school chemistry. Another basic tenet was that liaison with the other high school chemistry project, the Chemical Bond Approach (CBA), would be set up and maintained in order to achieve maximum benefits from having two courses.
In February 1960 l wrote to the initial proposed contributors describing the project and our tentative, very ambitious, time schedule (this letter is reproduced in Appendix H). Shortly thereafter, in a move that did much to insure the success of the undertaking, Art Campbell and l had lunch with George C. Pimentel at the Faculty Club in Berkeley and succeeded in persuading him to take time from his very productive research to serve as Editor of the CHEM Study textbook. It is just possible that my role as Chancellor helped induce a Berkeley faculty member to accept this demanding assignment. George performed with characteristic enthusiasm and did an extraordinary job.
The CHEM Study Story describes the dedicated efforts of the many contributors that led to the production of all the CHEM Study materials -the text, laboratory manual, teachers guides, instruction pamphlets, achievement tests, related monographs, and films. A measure of the project's success is the wide adoption and use of these materials in the nation's high schools and their direct and indirect influence on the content of numerous recent texts and laboratory manuals that have been prepared by many authors. Another measure is the many foreign-language translations of the written materials and films. An interesting sidelight is that the income from the materials has exceeded the support funding from the Federal government; CHEM Study is in the unprecedented position of more than paying for itself.
CHEM Study has made it necessary and possible to upgrade much of the teaching of college chemistry-an effort that is still in progress-in order to meet the requirements of the better-prepared incoming students. It has widened the interest of college and university teachers in the problems of high school teaching. And it has put many high school teachers in closer touch with their collegiate and university colleagues. The high school teachers' presence on the writing teams served to keep the materials understandable and to assure the teachability of the course.
The support of the National Science Foundation made this project possible, and the great understanding and cooperation of its representatives minimized the problems of contractual relationships. Similarly, the support and cooperation of the Regents, administration, and business office of the University of California and of the authorities of Harvey Mudd College helped to remove administrative burdens from the CHEM Study staff.
Personally, I count my own contributions to the CHEM Study effort as among the most important and rewarding of my activities during the last decade.