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!

Family Science Night

Our ACS ChemClub (Buena Science League) at Buena High School in Ventura, California, has developed an exciting outreach program for local elementary and middle schools. We travel to the local middle schools and spend the day presenting demonstrations to their science classes. In a day, we typically see six classes, with about thirty students per class. Depending on how we travel to the middle school, we take seven to twelve Science League student demonstrators. We also host an annual Science Show for elementary students in our large auditorium, usually presenting three 40 to 45 minute shows to an audience of 200 students per show.

We also host themed Family Science Nights each quarter for elementary and middle school families. We arrange demonstrations for viewing and hands-on activities for participation. We try to choose demonstrations and activities that relate to the chosen theme. Fourth through eighth grade students attend for an hour and a half in the early evening. About 30 students came to the last one, with a superhero theme. We have about 15 students participating from the high school, and they are pretty committed to the events. Their responsibilities are to learn how to perform specific demonstrations safely and to explain the underlying science.

Wizardry 101 Three Shows

The Vineland High School ChemClub in Vineland, NJ, performed three chemical demonstration shows called, “Wizardry 101”,during the 2015-2016 school year. Each of the student “wizards” had to practice and perfect the performance of their demonstration and write their own scientific explanation for the phenomenon before being granted a position in the show.

The first show was in auditorium for 300 sixth graders at Petway Elementary School. Twenty chemistry students performed 15 demonstrations and gave scientific explanations of how each one worked. The demonstrations were arranged in order of their state of matter, liquids, solutions, gases, and heat. Continue reading “Wizardry 101 Three Shows”

Crime Chemistry

This year’s National Chemistry Week (NCW) crime-based theme of “Solving Mysteries Through Chemistry” captured everyone’s interest! Our ChemClub is part of Prince of Peace, a K through 12 Catholic school on the Mississippi River, in Clinton, Iowa. With all grades located in the same building, the elementary students were able to come to the science lab for NCW. It was a chance for them to wear goggles and be crime detectives. They did tests with fiber, fingerprints, and blood. My students discovered that they like teaching!

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