Celebrating Planet Earth


The planet Earth is our shared home with a vast number of other living organisms, so it is humanity’s duty to try to conserve it the best we can. To promote awareness of the necessity of keeping our planet healthy, people around the world celebrate Earth Day annually on April 22. In celebration of this ideal to keep our planet clean, chemists from all around the island of Puerto Rico gathered in El Paseo de La Princesa, in Old San Juan, San Juan, to highlight “The Wonders of Water,” this year’s American Chemical Society (ACS) Chemists Celebrate Earth Day theme.

Members of different ACS clubs throughout the island got together and prepared more than 20 tables with exhibits and demonstrations involving the physical and chemical properties of water, as well as explaining the importance it has not only for us humans, but for every other living being on our planet. Natives, tourists, and club members all had the chance to participate.

Students from the Specialized School in Science and Math Thomas Armstrong Toro in Ponce couldn’t miss this amazing opportunity. Ten students from the school’s ChemClub set up and helped at the school’s table, explaining the experiments and demonstrations. The explanations were fitted to the audience, from explaining to children how water and oil “don’t get along” to discussing cohesion and adhesion with advanced participants. It was also imperative that the students spoke both English and Spanish, allowing them to communicate efficiently with not only the natives, but tourists from other countries as well.

Three demonstrations that stood out were:

Surface tension

Participants were urged to attempt to float a paper clip in a cup of water. A few were able to achieve this. Here a student explained how best to do it, as well as how the liquid is able to keep the paper clip afloat.


Oil and water

Oil and water were put in a clear glass and food coloring was added. After this, an Alka-Seltzer tablet was placed in it. In the water, the tablet reacted to produce carbon dioxide gas. Bubbles of carbon dioxide gas carried droplets of water upward through the oil, producing an effect like a lava lamp. Children were urged to take home a small test tube with the mix with their parents’ permission. A version of this activity is online at Lava Lamp.


Soft and hard water

The procedure was to mix water with magnesium sulfate in a water bottle, leave another water bottle full of water intact, and then add dishwashing soap to both. The participants were asked if, after shaking the bottles vigorously, they knew which water was the hard water. Many noticed how the softer water had much more bubbles than the hard one.


The conservation of planet Earth should be one of the most important things on our agenda these days, as each day pollution worsens the situation for everyone. We all have to remember that our one little drop of water can make an enormous difference in a sea of people, and we can all contribute to a better world, one way or another.

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Share Your Success Story


Each phrase in the Wordle image above represents a success story. A favorite activity. Chemistry excitement connected to some ChemClub, somewhere.

  • What caught your eye?
  • What do you want to hear more about?
  • What do you want to try yourself, maybe with your own ChemClub?

In the ChemClub annual survey for this past school year, advisors and students were asked to share the activities that were most successful and their favorites. Highlights from those answers are collected in the image above.

Reading through the collected survey answers each year is always fun and a bit tantalizing. By necessity, the descriptions are brief. But they make us want to know more.

For me, one example was “Making BREAKING BAD candy.” Recipe, please!

Another was “Made ‘robot’ sculptures from recycled material.” Photos, please!

It’s great for ChemClub staff to have this feedback in the survey. It can help show if particular activities from the resource packets that we send were super popular among Clubs. It also gives us ideas for future resources to develop and share. And, we love to get this small taste of your Club—what type of stuff your members loved to do during the year.

Looking for an even wider audience to share your success stories and favorites? Look no further. You’re here! The ACS ChemClub Happenings blog needs your story. Advisors and students are encouraged to send their potential blog posts and photos to hschemclubs@acs.org. We even have tips to help get you started.

What’s your success story?

Writing an ACS ChemClub Blog Post

ACS_ChemClub-logoOne the goals of the ACS ChemClub program is to increase communications to and among high school chemistry teachers around the nation.  One way we can make this happen is with online sites, such as the ACS ChemClub Happenings blog.  We strongly encourage all ChemClub advisors and students to contribute and comment on blogs for our site.  To help you, here are some guidelines to help you write and structure your blog post.

Topic Ideas

  • Fundraising is a very common club activity, either to support a charitable cause to for club activities.  Other clubs are always looking for new and innovative ways to raise money.
  • Brag about your club or student achievements. Let others know about any recognition your club has received, such as articles in the local press, school or district recognition, success at competitions, or community wide events. Link to any reports on club activities.
  • Profile your club. Talk about how you are organized, where you meet, how often you meet.  Discuss any of the structure or features that are present in your club.
  • Ask students to write about their involvement in the club and their science experience.  The most important people in the ChemClub program are the students and hearing their opinions and observations is valuable to everyone.
  • Recommend articles, books, websites or other resources that you have found useful for your club (or teaching in general).
  • Report on projects your club is involved in, such as school wide celebrations, homecoming, career days or community service projects.
  • Tell about activities that you have used in your ChemClub meetings.  It is helpful if you describe activities with enough detail so that others might be able to reproduce them.  Rather than, “Our annual ‘Slime Me, Baby’ activity”, suggest, “We did ‘Slime Me, Baby’, where we covered the advisor with PVA slime.”
  • Describe field trips or outreach activities your club has taken.  Talk about what led to a successful field trip or what may have been done better.

Structure Your Blog Post

  • A well-structured blog posting will catch the readers’ attention, and make them want to read what you have to say. You can help do this by giving the blog post a title that is descriptive and provokes interest. 
  • Put the main point in the first paragraph. Be as concise and direct as possible.  Blogs tend to have short paragraphs (3-4 sentences) that capture interest quickly and retain the reader’s attention.
  • Add details in the paragraphs that follow.  Most blog entries total 200-300 words.
  • Try to write in a friendly and informal style. Use first person ‘I’ and be collegial.  Be sure to avoid jargon, local terms or undefined acronyms.  Explain acronyms on first use, such as American Chemical Society (ACS).
  • Include pictures or video if possible, as they enhance visual interest in your post.  Encourage readers to connect to your post.  Ask a question for others to respond to or solicit alternative approaches.


Final Hints

  • Spell-check your posts
  • Use bullet points where appropriate
  • Create sub-headings for longer posts
  • Have others read the post to see that it flows properly

Put the Fun First! Ideas for a First ChemClub Meeting

First days of school are popping up all over the place. ChemClubs are getting back in the swing of things too, as members start to get together again for the 2014–2015 school year. Need some inspiration and ideas for your first meeting? Looking for a different activity or two to get students fired up for the year? Here’s a few to get your creative chemistry juices flowing as you plan for meetings.

Students make lemonade to learn about reactions.

Taste the sweet side of chemistry.

Try this “Sweet Lemonade” recipe from the ACS ChemClub Cookbook, submitted by the club from Springbrook High School, Silver Spring, MD. Fill a cup ~3/4 full of cold water. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Add 4 spoonfuls of sugar and stir. Take a sip. How sweet does it taste? Stir in an additional tablespoon of lemon juice. Try another sip. How does the sweetness change? When the second tablespoon is added, the acid in the lemon juice is more effective at separating the saccharides in the sugar (splitting the 12-carbon sucrose into two 6-carbon sugars), thus making it taste sweeter than when you added sugar to the first portion of lemon juice.

Chill out with chemistry.

Make ice cream in a bag as you explore freezing point depression. One hands-on activity is at http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scrumptious-science-making-ice-cream-in-a-bag/. Then, follow up with the ChemMatters article “Ice, Cream… and Chemistry.”


Get messy with chemistry.

Yes, the Mentos–Diet Coke geyser has been around for awhile. But a massive jet of soda doesn’t lose its appeal! Try a variety of soda types—cola, non-cola, diet, regular, caffeinated, non-caffeinated, generic, brand-name. What gives the highest result? One description of the activity is at http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/original-mentos-diet-coke-geyser.

Make something with chemistry.

Raid the recycle bin for clear deli-style containers with a recycle code #6 and bake up some homemade Shrinky Dink-style toys. Use permanent markers to color cut-out pieces of the polymer, then bake at 325° F. Toaster ovens are a portable way to do this with your club. A full description of the activity is in the collection at http://www.terrificscience.org/downloads/NCW/NCW2005.pdf (see page 12).


Decorate with chemistry.

Create colorful designs on club t-shirts using radial chromatography. Tighten a section of the t-shirt’s fabric over a container such as the mouth of a beaker and fasten with a rubber band. Then, use permanent markers to make several small dots or other designs in the center of the section. Drip rubbing alcohol onto the patterns and watch your design spread! One description of the activity is at http://chemmovies.unl.edu/chemistry/beckerdemos/BD038.html.

Be surprising with chemistry.

Show your students a candle so they can make observations, then light it, blow it out, and eat it. Have their powers of observation failed them? The “candle” is really a cylinder of raw potato (or apple or a stick of chilled string cheese) with a piece of nut stuck into it that burns when you light it. One version of the activity is at http://www.flinnsci.com/media/478451/cf10563.pdf.

Reveal the face of chemistry.

What’s your chemistry face? “Chemisery”? “Chemystery”? A Flinn Scientific demonstration shows that your attitude going into chemistry can make a difference! You’ll draw faces on chromatography paper using potassium thiocyanate and potassium ferrocyanide solutions, then spray with iron(III) chloride solution to reveal each one. A full description is at https://www.flinnsci.com/media/621873/91801.pdf.

Be thoughtful with chemistry.

You’ve just figured out a puzzle. What happens when the puzzle changes? Can you make sense of it again? Students can use small cardstock puzzles to consider the nature of science. They solve a small tangram-style puzzle at the beginning. But, can they re-solve it when you add in another piece? See the puzzles and the activity at http://www.scienceteacherprogram.org/genscience/Choi04.html.

Use your first meeting to build excitement for the rest of the year’s activities! What did your Club do?