Murder Mysteries at Thomas Armstrong Toro HS

During the month of March, members of the ChemClub in our school, Thomas Armstrong Toro High School, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, arranged a PR-Toro_18PR-Toro_8PR-Toro_18PR-Toro_18school-wide activity that involved solving four completely different and intriguing make-believe murders. However, these crime scenes were no ordinary ones. No, our ChemClub members took it into their own hands to involve as much chemistry in the activity as possible.

Members of the club creating the activity left clues at each crime scene involving different aspects of chemistry, from decoding messages with the periodic table to having to analyze evidence. The Club focused primarily on using different methods of crime scene investigation and employed mainly fingerprint and ink chromatography methods to solve the mysteries. Before the whole activity took place, the president of our ChemClub, along with a few other members, led a series of classes discussing these same topics and the science behind them.

During the day of the activity, many students, both members and non-members, participated.  They investigated the four crime scenes arranged by the ChemClub. Each crime scene took place in a different corner of our basketball court. In the middle of the gym we placed two sets of tables, one for handing in all evidence after analysis, and another for doing experiments involving the evidence. At the experiment table members of the ChemClub guided students  through ink chromatography and finger printing techniques using graphite. Students of all grades were involved, working in groups of two to four.

The activity was a huge success. The so-called murderers were caught, even though they had managed to haze students by the dozen. From periodic tables to observing ink color chromatographs, the ChemClub in our school conducted a grand activity this month, which was both entertaining and educational. And in the end, justice prevailed!


Chemists Celebrate Earth Day – April 22, 2014

Help your ChemClub to be Earth Advocates!


Chemists Celebrate Earth Day (CCED) is an annual celebration that  brings a focus to environmental causes, such as clean air, water, and energy in the context of basic chemistry. The American Chemical Society (ACS) offers events, contests, and educational resources for members, chemical educators, and chemistry enthusiasts to illustrate the positive role that chemistry plays in preserving the Earth.   The CCED 2014 theme is the “Wonders of Water”, exploring the unique properties of water that are crucial for life and a cleaner environment.

There are a number of great resources available for your celebration of Earth Day.  This is a great opportunity to show how chemistry works in everyday life.  It is also a chance to demonstrate how central chemistry is in many environmental issues.  One great place to start is with the materials in the ChemClub 2013-2014 Resource Packet #3, which includes demonstrations, lab-based activities, and activities for outside the lab.  Each resource packet also includes a table categorizing these demos and activities according to common high school chemistry curriculum topics.  You will also see sample Club meeting guides and a copy of ChemMatters magazine, which features articles dealing with environmental issues.

At the CCED web site there are more resources of interest.

CCED Illustrated Poem ContestPoetry contest graphic

As part of CCED activities, the ACS is sponsoring an illustrated poem contest for students in Kindergarten – 12th grade. Tap into your creative side and submit a poem.  Entries will be judged based on relevance to and incorporation of the CCED theme (“The Wonders of Water”), word choice and imagery, colorful artwork, adherence to poem style, originality and creativity, and overall presentation. The poems can be in any of seven styles, from haiku to free verse and must be less than 40 words long.

Celebrating Chemistry

This publication is aimed at younger students and is perfect for any outreach your club might do with elementary school-age kids.  This year’s issue includes stories on how soaps work, why oil and water don’t mix and explores aquifers. Celebrating Chemistry is available in both English and Spanish versions.

CCED Education Resources

Find a number of helpful resources to aid your CCED activities.  Some of the resources include links to the Journal of Chemical Education, ACS CCED promotional products, web seminars, podcasts and much more.

CCED Community Events

Discover local events happening in your area that you may want to join.  It also has suggestions for organizing your own community event, if that is something you and your club would like to take on.

As you can see there are lots of resources for Chemists Celebrate Earth Day.  Now all that is left is for you to make a plan.  Do something grand, or something at a smaller scale, on Earth Day April 22, 2014.

Canoeing on Deep River



Share Chemistry in Your Community


Free money! Take your pick—$300 or $500.

April Fool’s, right?

No, really. Free money!

April 1 (no fooling) marks the start of the annual grant application cycle for the ACS ChemClub Community Activities Grants. It’s a great way for Clubs to fund activities that share chemistry in some way with those around them. Clubs have done things like perform a demo extravaganza, do hands-on activities at a local library, start a recycling program at their school, and tons more.

Grant activity at library

Clubs have until June 1 to submit applications. Clubs that are awarded grants will receive the money to use during the 2014–2015 school year. Chartered ChemClubs can receive up to $300 for activities done by their own Club, or up to $500 for activities together with an ACS college-level chapter or an ACS Local Section.

Everything you need to know to get started is at the ChemClub Community Activities Grants page. There’s even a grant writing worksheet and grant checklist to use for your planning, with questions you’ll need to answer on the application. Applications can be written by Club advisors or Club members (in consultation with the advisor).

For even more help, ACS staff recently offered the webinar “Write Your Way to Success: Grant Writing Strategies for You and Your Chemistry Students.” Watch for the webinar (coming soon!) on the ChemClub page—it has tips that will take you from coming up with a great idea, to telling your story about it in the proposal, to applying, then hopefully celebrating your successful application and carrying out your plan.

What are ways that you’d like to share chemistry with your community? The money to do it can be there for your Club. No joke!

Stories of Chemistry

(Part 4 of 4 - Photography Contest Entries)

Let us know which of these pictures from the ChemClub Photography Contest are your favorites. The photo with the most likes, comments, etc. will be the ChemClub Choice Award winner!

Stories of Chemistry

For the stories of chemistry category, students were to communicate chemistry in a photojournalistic style using a series of photos with a story about the photo’s relationship to chemistry.

Titration is a common laboratory method of quantitative chemical analysis that is used to determine the unknown concentration of a known reactant. Because volume measurements play a key role in titration, it is also known as volumetric analysis. A reagent, called the titrant or titrator, of a known concentration (a standard solution) and volume is used to react with a solution of the analye or titrnad, whose concentration is not known. Using a calibrated burette or chemistry pipetting syringe to add the titrant, it is possible to determine the exact amount that has been consumed when the endpoint is reached. The endpoint is the point at which the titration is complete, as determined by an indicator. This is ideally the same volume as the equivalence point – the volume of added titrant at which the number of moles of titrant is equal to the number of moles of analyte, or some multiple thereof. In the classic strong acid-strong base titration, the endpoint of a titration is the point at which the pH of the reactant is just about equal to 7, and often when the solution takes on a persisting solid color as in the pink of phenolphthalein indicator.

Colors of Chemistry

(Part 3 of 4 - Photography Contest Entries)

Let us know which of these pictures from the ChemClub Photography Contest are your favorites. The photo with the most likes, comments, etc. will be the ChemClub Choice Award winner!

Colors of Chemistry

The pictures in this category show how chemistry contributes to colors of things in the world around you. Information about each entry is below the photo. When leaving a comment about a certain picture use the title found above the photo.



Picture 1 of 11

One cannot help but notice the vibrant pigmentation present in different types of flowers.  The orange pigment in this flower is known to be caused by the pigment Carotenoid and fits this picture into the colors of chemistry category.  The diversity of colors present in the flower is due to the presence of different pigments and flavonoids present in the petals.