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.

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?



Foy H. Moody High School students and teacher at the National NSTA Meeting in Boston
Foy H. Moody High School students and teacher at the NSTA National Conference

For most educators, presenting at a national education conference is a career achievement that only comes after years of teaching and learning.  But a talented group of ACS ChemClub students from Moody High School in Corpus Christi, Texas, did just that this spring.

The Presentation

The ChemClub co-presented a session at the NSTA 2014 National Conference in Boston, Mass.  Along with their teacher V. Dulip, they presented a session titled “A Demo a Week Makes Science Class the Peak”.

Participants included V. Dulip, J. Abrego, J. Baca, V. Cantu, J. Fryer, B. Kinch, E. Macias, and S. Parbhu.
students preparing their presentation materials & adjusting their goggles
Students preparing their presentation materials

During the session the group performed about 30 simple demonstrations with materials easily obtained from local stores. These demos were chosen to excite students’ interest and challenge them to do higher level thinking. The demos included making slime, bubbles, balloons, invisible glue, sinkers, floaters, color changes, and density. Sources for materials in the demos was explained, as well as how to get the maximum learning benefits from the demos. The session was well-attended and well-received by teachers.

Travel Highlights

The students got to listen to Bill Nye, Mayim Bialik (from The Big Bang Theory) and attended sessions by Texas Instruments (TI) and Vernier Software. They also visited the campuses of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). An ex-Moody and science club member gave a tour of the MIT campus.

In front of the famous McLaurin Building’s 150-foot-high “Great Dome” at MIT

Funding for the trip was provided by Harte Research Institute, Texas A & M University–Corpus Christi, CITGO Corporation, and a local engineering firm Govind and Associates.


SciFest was held at Illinois Valley oths_scifest_13Community College  (IVCC) on Friday, April 11.

SciFest is an annual celebration of science put together by IVCC professor Matthew Johll.  Instead of people gathering in a gym to watch a sports contest, at SciFest they came together for hands-on science experiments and demonstrations designed to help them understand how science work in everyday life. This year some 500 people attended.

The Ottawa Township High School ChemClub was there also, to lend a hand in presenting some of the activies.  We had about a dozen members of our club attend and present the following hands on demos:

johll1johll1Dr. Johll laid on the bed of nails and had the cinder block broken on his chest. Some IVCC students demonstrated a  flame tube (also known as a Rubens’ Tube) that showed the acoustic waves in the flames as a guitar was played, and the crushing of the 55 gallon drum by air pressure.

In addition any Cub Scout could earn their Science belt loop or Boy Scouts could work on a Chemistry merit badge at the event.

In the end, the event generated a lot of excitement and thinking about science, and again, unlike a sporting event, there were no losers and everyone won.

STEM Turns into STEAM


Want to submit an application for a ChemClub Community Activity Grant before June 1, but don’t have a project idea? Or, is your Club simply looking for something new to try? Why not turn STEM into STEAM? Fusion Science Theater (FST) takes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education to a new creative level by adding the Arts. The Fusion Science Theater website describes FST as a STEAM outreach program that uses the secrets of theater to create outreach shows that actively engage children in learning science. They’re short, interactive shows that weave demonstrations together with predictions, modeling, and a storyline, targeted for an audience of grades 1 through 5.

How can you bring this program to your area? Apply for a Community Activity Grant to purchase a FST show performance kit! The kit will give your Club everything they need to perform the show in your community. The kits include a show script, video of a live performance of the show, list of materials and props you’ll need, a handbook for training and performance tips, and even instructions on how to assess learning achieved during the show.

Choose from:

  • If I Were an Atom to explore kinetic molecular theory and how atoms move in the solid phase. Watch a video preview.
  • Bouncemania! with a “Wrestlemania”-style match between happy & sad toy balls to learn about polymers and molecular structure. Who will be crowned “The World’s Bounciest Ball”? Watch a video preview.
  • Will It Light? to test and model the flow of electricity through different substances, as students investigate conductivity. Watch a video preview.

FST shows are more than just sharing your typical demos. They are inquiry-based. Show characters lead students to investigate a question that motivates the audience to learn a basic chemical concept. The shows are highly interactive. Audience members get to assist on stage, vote for their prediction of what will happen in a demonstration, and more. It’s easy to measure the impact and learning using assessment info included in the kit. The theater techniques and elements used are a great way to keep your audience’s attention.

For more information, download a PDF of the FST flier that was also included in a recent ACS ChemClub resource packet.

Get out there and generate some STEAM!