Hack Your Taste Buds with Toothpaste

Ever been in this situation? You’re ready to head out the door—teeth brushed, hair styled, favorite clothes on, but grab one last swig of o.j. on your way. If you’re like most people, your first reaction will be “Yuck!” Your taste buds have just fallen victim to the effect of sodium lauryl sulfate. What’s going on?

Try this activity and then learn more about the chemistry behind it.

Continue reading “Hack Your Taste Buds with Toothpaste”

Chemistry Careers Q&A

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And the “Final Jeopardy” topic for today is: ACS ChemClubs.

The answer is… “Food and Careers.”

I’m not Alex Trebek, but imagine the music for the Jeopardy! quiz show theme song playing in the background.

Time’s up! What is the question?
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It is: “What are the two most popular topics suggested by ACS ChemClubs as themes for future resource packets and ‘Activity of the Month’ web updates?

In more than one annual ChemClub survey, food and careers have been hands-down, top, most-mentioned suggestions for future themes to use. Food—yes, destined to be a top choice. Put together a group of teens and food is a natural high-interest topic, with plenty of chemistry-related material available for demos and hands-on activities. One year, ChemClub members were even invited to submit their favorite recipes and related chemistry factoids to create The ACS ChemClub Cookbook.

But careers? Yes, it ties in beautifully with one of the bullet points of the ChemClub mission statement, to learn about study and career opportunities in the many and varied fields of chemistry. ACS ChemClubs wants to help advisors share this information, and, to use words specifically mentioned in the mission statement, to provide students with “fun, authentic, and hands-on opportunities” to do this. In past resource packets, we’ve offered ideas for potential speakers to invite to talk with ChemClubs about a particular theme topic. We’ve given links to specific careers on the ACS “College to Careers” website. We’ve introduced you to chemists through video profiles, such as “Meet a BP Chemist” that’s part of the Energy Foundations for High School Chemistry module.

But, are we filling the need for resources related to careers? In this case, à la Jeopardy!, I don’t have the answers, only questions—for you. If you’re a ChemClub advisor, how do you use career materials in your ChemClub and classroom? What would you find most useful as resources? If you’re a student, what do you want to know about career opportunities? What do you find most engaging? How can we best meet your needs?

Get Your Free Chemistry Samples Here!

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“If you only see one movie this year … make it [fill in name of latest, greatest movie here].” Movie poster cliché? Yes.

What about: “If you only read one journal issue this year … make it the January 2014 issue of the Journal of Chemical Education.” Cliché? Perhaps—or just good advice.

J. Chem. Educ. recently posted its January 2014 issue online. Typically, one has to subscribe to read the full text of most of the articles. However, this issue serves as its sample issue for the year, and it’s positively packed with good reads for high school chemistry educators.

First up on my radar was George M. Bodner’s commentary “Creation of an American Association of Chemistry Teachers.” He discusses the American Chemical Society’s decision this past fall to create the AACT for K–12 chemistry teachers. I was at the ACS High School Day program in Indianapolis when Bodner stepped in to our meeting room to share this momentous news. Learn about it in the article, then stay up-to-date on what’s going on with the planned September 2014 launch for AACT by entering your email address at http://www.acs.org/aact. Additional articles share further perspectives on the new association, including comments from the current J. Chem. Educ. high school editors.

The photos for “Antimicrobial Properties of Spices: An Activity for High School or Introductory Chemistry or Biology” caught my eye. Food is typically a very popular topic among ChemClubs. This activity looks at the antimicrobial properties of spices such as cinnamon and cloves. Students can observe the effect of using these spices on a dessert. The “Supporting Information” link for this article has a student activity worksheet you can download.

Don’t miss out on your free chemistry samples. Jump to the free issue, skim through the table of contents, and see what grabs your interest. From there, download a pdf or print out a copy of your favorite articles to use in your classroom, share with a colleague, or just file away in a “Try This!” folder. What did you find?

Making Yogurt at Preston High School

Making yogurt involves a lot of chemistry!

What better way is there to start a fun-filled year of exploring chemistry than with an exciting…and delicious… experiment? For its first official meeting of the 2013-2014 academic school year, the ChemClub at New York’s Preston High Schooldid just that. With the help of its dedicated club advisor, Mrs. Wicks-Dharmay, who also teaches chemistry at Preston High School, the ChemClub commenced a year of exciting experiments with an experiment to make yogurt.

Yes, yogurt! Who would’ve thought yogurt could be made in a high school chemistry laboratory?  Mrs. Wicks-Dharmay gathered all of the materials (see below) for our yogurt experiment,  including a gallon of milk and commercial yogurt.  The yogurt contains bacteria that ferment the lactose in milk producing lactic acid, which turns the milk into yogurt. She also provided  cups and spoons so  the entire Chem Club would be able to taste the outcome of the experiment.

With the entire Chem Club gathered to make yogurt, each member took a turn stirring the milk as we heated it. With all this stirring, our arms started to cramp after a while, but eventually the milk started thickening and turning into yogurt. The milk was left to sit for a day as it finished fermenting into yogurt and was then stored in the fridge.

Chem Club members came to the lab after school the next day to pick up their cups of yogurt and were pleasantly surprised by the results. The yogurt was delicious and it was even better knowing we made it ourselves. This experiment showed us how the bacteria in yogurt produce lactic acid for the fermentation process making yogurt from milk. This yogurt-making experiment is the first of many more fun and exciting experiments that Preston High School’s Chem Club will be performing this year. Stay tuned as this club journeys through the world of chemistry and a myriad of education enhancing experiments.

The yogurt recipe we used cannot be found on the internet, as it was the recipe from our ChemClub advisor’s own mother-in-law. Mrs. Wicks-Dharmay mother-in-law lived an all-natural life as a vegetarian and lived to be 101. Her yogurt recipe and making was something she took pride in. It was this memorable recipe we used in ChemClub to perform our experiment.

The recipe is as follows:

We used our Advisor’s family recipe.
  • 1 gallon of whole milk
  • 2 cups of sugar (more or less depending on taste)
  • 2 tbsp of vanilla
  • 1 small container of plain yogurt

  1. Put the milk, sugar, and vanilla in a pot and let it boil.
  2. Boil for about 10 minutes, while stirring constantly to avoid clots.
  3. Remove from heat, and continue stirring the mixture until it cools to your body temperature (you may test the temperature by placing a small dot on your skin, until it is no longer hot)
  4. After the mixture has cooled, add 3-4 tbsp plain yogurt and stir well to incorporate.
  5. Let the mixture sit overnight without moving, so it may thicken.
  6. Separate into smaller yogurt cups and store in refrigerator.

If your ChemClub tries making yogurt, be sure to send pictures to the hschemclubs@acs.org, or leave a Reply to this post.