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?