Morning of Chemistry: An ACS ChemClub Community Activity Grant

Science is pretty cool, especially when you get to teach it using demonstrations and hands-on experiments. Thanks to a ChemClub Community Activities Grant from the American Chemical Society (ACS), students from Westside High School in Houston, Texas were able to show the 5th grade students at Askew Elementary School just how exciting chemistry can be.

Members of the Westside High School Academic Science Demonstration Chemistry Club spent 2 months during the fall semester and 2 months during the spring semester of the 2016-17 school year planning and organizing our “Morning of Chemistry” days. Once our preparation and planning was complete we presented two morning sessions to the students at Askew Elementary School. During each morning session, students learned about electric circuits, heat transfer, pressure and temperature relationships, combustion, polymers, and chemical reactions via a series of demonstrations and hands-on activities. Students were even allowed to take home a few “souvenirs” that resulted from the activities of the day!

Because science is important in many aspects of life, it’s important to get students interested early and keep them interested throughout middle school, high school, and life after graduation. The Westside High School chemistry club hopes to create citizen scientists one demo day at a time, and with the positive feedback from our first presentations, we plan to continue these “Mornings of Chemistry” next school year.

Summer Science at the Farmers Market

Visitors to The Dalles Farmers Market, young and old alike, were invited to take a few minutes from their shopping for fresh produce to learn a little bit about chemistry. Our ChemClub from The Dalles, Oregon, received a ChemClub Community Activities Grant to fund hands-on activities last summer and fall at our local outdoor Saturday market. Each activity related to color in some way. Our inspiration was the National Chemistry Week 2015 theme Chemistry Colors Our World.

Chem in a Bag activity

We offered the activities once a month, from June through October, at the markets community education booth. The five activities were:

  • Nano bookmarks.Visitors made bookmarks by pulling rectangles of black posterboard through a single drop of clear fingernail polish floated on the surface of a pan of water.
  • Radial chromatography.Visitors decorated squares of fabric using Sharpie markers and drops of rubbing alcohol.
  • Solar S’mores.Visitors made s’mores using solar ovens made out of pizza boxes. The activity highlighted the idea that white light is made up of all the colors of the rainbow.
  • Chem in a Bag.Visitors looked for clues that chemistry was happening in a bag with calcium chloride, baking soda, universal indicator, and water. They observed bubbles, a color change, and a temperature change.
  • Chemeleons. Visitors painted different acids and bases onto pictures of chemeleons that had been soaked in purple cabbage juice. Depending on the pH of the solution, it resulted in a different color on the paper.

Every activity began with participants getting a safety stamp. After they listened to the brief safety rules, each person got a fruit-themed rubber stamp inked on their hand. For each of our activities that a child visited, they received an entry into an end-of-market drawing for fun science toys from Educational Innovations. We had a great time, and many people got a chance to try some summer science!

Creating Inspiring Leaders

Since there are many students who see chemistry as something difficult, boring, and of no relevance to their lives, our Central Visual Arts School ChemClub participated in projects to help motivate students to learn and inquire more about chemistry in the real world.

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Festival de Quimica at Central Visual Arts School

Our school celebrated the Festival with different interactive activities and demonstrations to educate others about chemistry. These activities were carried out by our ChemClub students and the American Chemical Society Student Chapter at the University of Puerto Rico−Rio Piedras Campus (ACS UPR−RP). A poster contest was also conducted in our school to promote the Festival. This year’s theme was “Chemistry Colors our World.” The contest was beneficial to high school students because they could obtain another perspective of the field of chemistry, as they used their art abilities to show the chemistry behind color. Members of the ACS UPR−RP Student Chapter collaborated by serving as contest judges. They evaluated the posters, taking into account artistic and creative elements, chemistry and science content, and relevance of each design to the Festival theme.

Some of the presented posters are shown.

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Festival de Quimica at El Paseo la Princesa

Our students also worked at the Festival de Quimica held at El Paseo la Princesa in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in October 2015 and April 2016. The October Festival had the National Chemistry Week theme “Chemistry Colors Our World” and the April Festival had the Chemists Celebrate Earth Day theme “Our Home’s Ecosystem.” It gave participants chances to explore how chemistry and other sciences are present in our lives.

Magic of Chemistry Shows

show_1Our ChemClub members worked hard to identify schools where they should conduct chemistry demonstration sh
ows, using materials from our everyday lives. The ACS UPR−RP Student Chapter helped us organize the shows and the demonstrations. The audiences were diverse, including students from elementary to high school levels. We also collected data about what the audiences thought about chemistry before and after the event, and whether they thought they would share chemistry with others.

These activities gave ChemClub students opportunities to develop their chemistry skills, become better leaders, and motivate other students to be part of the incredible world of chemistry. We thank the ACS ChemClub program for its support.

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