Halloween Chemistry

halloween-1486549_1280Halloween Chemistry and Mole Day are rising to the top of the most visited list on the ACS ChemClub Activities page. It must be October! If you haven’t visited the page before, ChemClubs offers a new Activity of the Month, well… every month. Each Activity collection focuses on a particular theme. For example, the latest topic is Makeup, Tattoos, and Hair. Each theme has a curated list of links. We comb the web for experiments, demonstrations, informational sites, and videos related to the month’s theme, then categorize and collect them with brief descriptions. ChemClubs also archives past Activity of the Month pages. The Halloween Chemistry and Mole Day pages are typically among the most popular during this time of year.

Mole Day may be over for the year, but bookmark the page for ideas for 2017. There’s still time to use the Halloween collection to get ideas for adding some creepy chemistry and spooky science to your day.

Some things you’ll find on the Halloween Chemistry Activity of the Month page:

  • Looking to make chemistry your Halloween wardrobe of choice? Take a look at the Costumes tab for ideas on masquerading as your favorite element or compound.
  • One link in the Body Parts tab suggests giving a classic demonstration a Halloween twist. You could probably dig up the materials at your house right now. Fill a plastic zip-seal bag with water, add red food coloring, and seal to create a bag of blood. Then, stab through the bag with skewers or sharpened pencils. The bag won’t leak due to the structure of the polymers that make up the bag.
  • Dry ice is indispensable for a bubbling cauldron effect. But, it can also be used to create a crystal ball filled with a swirling fog of the future. Look for the Boo Bubbles link in the Dry Ice tab. I’ve used the homemade container featured in the Sick Science! video at the link with kid-crowd-pleasing results.

There’s lots more to explore. Take a look at this Halloween collection or a different Activity of the Month new or old.

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



Holiday Chemistry—Pin It!


I’m a recent convert to Pinterest. It allows you to create your own virtual bulletin boards and fill them by “pinning” images that then link back to the websites you wish to remember. It’s a way to collect web content you like, with the visual pop of the images to help you remember what you pinned. I’m slowly populating my boards with pins, but often I’m more interested in using the site to see what other people have pinned. In particular, I’m curious to see the pins that connect to chemistry. Something that’s cropped up lately with the holidays fast approaching are pins to borax crystal ornaments.

What’s the chemistry? You make a supersaturated solution with boiling water and borax powder, then suspend a shape you’ve twisted out of pipe cleaners in the solution. The bristles of the pipe cleaners offer lots of places for the borax to crystallize as the solution cools and can no longer hold as much of the borax in solution.

After a quick stop at the Dollar Store for pipe cleaners (decided on sparkly gold), I grabbed my box of 20 Mule Team Borax from the laundry room, and got started. Snowflake shapes are highly popular on Pinterest, so I started there. Here’s a summary:

  1. Cut a 12-inch pipe cleaner into three equal pieces.
  2. Use one piece as the center. Twist a second piece around the first to form the “arms” of the snowflake. Repeat with a third piece, for six symmetrical arms.
  3. Tie a string to the tip of one of the arms.
  4. Take a wide-mouthed glass jar or beaker. Suspend the snowflake in the chosen container so it does not touch the bottom of the container by tying or taping the other end of the string to a pencil that rests across the mouth of the container. Temporarily remove the pencil and snowflake from the container.
  5. Prepare a supersaturated borax solution—Boil tap water, then measure it by cups into the container. For each cup of water in the container, add 3 tablespoons of borax powder. Stir well. Borax powder may remain at the bottom of the container.
  6. Place the snowflake in the container again, with the pencil resting across the top of the container.
  7. Move the container to a place where it can remain undisturbed overnight. (Check out a close-up of the gorgeous results up top!)
Placing the snowflake into the supersaturated borax solution.
Placing the snowflake into the supersaturated borax solution.
After sitting overnight, a beautiful collection of crystals.
After sitting overnight, a beautiful collection of crystals.

A quick search on Pinterest showed a huge variety of shapes to try—borax crystal rainbows made with colored pipe cleaners, monograms, beautifully-elaborate snowflake designs, hearts, the American flag, candy canes, shamrocks, a Halloween spider, an Easter egg, stars, icicles, and even crystallizing the borax onto feathers. I love the idea of adapting it to fit other holidays and uses.

Looking for other holiday chemistry resources? Visit the latest ACS ChemClub Activity of the Month “Holiday Chemistry” or follow ACS ChemClubs on Pinterest!

Do you integrate holidays into your Club and classroom? What are some of your favorite resources?


Halstead High School ChemClub Glowing with Excitement


Halstead High School ChemClub members served up a smorgasbord of luminescent glow stick experiments.
Halstead High School ChemClub members serve up a smorgasbord of luminescent glow stick experiments.
The Halstead High School ChemClub in Halstead, Kansas, recently decided to partake of the collection of glow stick experiments posted on the ACS ChemClub’s September Activity of the Month page “Lightsticks and Luminescence.” We did several experiments from the Activity of the Month links, but did others as well. Our experiments included snapping wintergreen mints in the dark with various objects so we could see the spark they emitted. We also used a black light to see what kinds of colors fluoresced. Several students tried the Mountain Dew and hydrogen peroxide experiment shown in a video that has been traveling around the internet. They confirmed that it is a hoax and does not work like the video claims. Lastly, and a clear favorite of the students, we cut open glow sticks and mixed the colors to see what combinations we could create. While cutting the glow sticks open was a bit messy, the students had a lot of fun mixing the colors and were glowing in both appearance and excitement at the end of the experiments.