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.

Tanque Verde ChemClub Celebrates Earth Day

Science is amazing!
Science is amazing!

ChemClub members at Tanque Verde High School (TVHS) in Tucson, AZ, recently participated in the 2014 Tucson Earth Day Festival. The festival is an annual event full of opportunities to showcase local science and environmental programs. We joined forces with our Southern Arizona ACS Local Section to prepare hands-on activities and displays for the public to highlight Chemists Celebrate Earth Day (CCED).

TVHS students brought several demonstrations related to the current CCED theme, “Wonders of Water,” to share. Groups of TVHS students rotated through the day to teach visitors about different properties of water. Our hands-on activities explored the cohesive and adhesive properties of water, changes in surface tension, and conductivity of water. We also collaborated to prepare a water filtration demo to display at the ACS booth. The greatest challenge for this outreach activity was the outdoor location—since the festival takes place in the park, we needed to battle the elements—sun and wind!

For many of our visitors it was a chance to become a scientist for a day, wear goggles, use pipets and a conductivity meter, perhaps for the first time ever!

Testing conductivity of different samples of water
Testing conductivity of different samples of water
Making plastic boats propelled by differences in surface tension
Making plastic boats propelled by differences in surface tension
Adding "fuel" = rubbing alcohol solution
Adding “fuel” = rubbing alcohol solution. Try it yourself!

University School of Jackson’s 2 Big Activities This Year!

We were brainstorming about how to get the students interested in REALLY supporting the Coins for Cleaner Water effort.  We did a PowerPoint presentation at a school assembly and showed the time-lapse video of the water being cleaned.  Our ChemClub collects dues of $5 each year, and we decided to use that money to provide a chocolate fountain with all the trimmings to the winning teacher to have in her room for the day.   The contest was run in all the science classes, as all students have to take four years of science in high school.  The students were so excited!  We had the fountain in the winning teacher’s classroom―unfortunately it wasn’t mine―on the day the students returned from spring break.  It made the day more fun!!

Another project we did this year was to make science kits for teachers at a local elementary school that has a high percentage of economically-disadvantaged students.  The ChemClub students divided into groups and came up with a cool science experiment.  They collected all the supplies and wrote up a procedure with questions (including answers/explanations) for the teacher to ask his/her students.  All their supplies and instructions had to fit into a gallon-size ziplock bag.  They made 28 bags to provide a science kit to every teacher at that school.  Each individual kit contains 12 science experiments – with all the necessary supplies except water and paper towels.

Sherwood ChemClub End Their Fundraiser with a Watery Demonstration

The Coins for Cleaner Water campaign really struck a chord with me, as I had been searching for a service-related activity for my chemistry club.

Here was an example where chemistry could directly impact and improve the lives of people, especially children. Simultaneously, I was intrigued by the ACS ChemClub’s suggestion to do an “emergency shower dunk” as a fundraiser idea. Since the water that comes out of the emergency shower is undrinkable (putting it lightly) why not use it to show how abundant water is for us and have a little fun at the same time?

I solicited the help of our faculty and staff and 4 brave teachers offered their names to collect money. Another teacher really talked it up in her classroom and motivated students to donate. We collected over $80 and we hope to do this again next year!

Before the dunking I showed this video illustrating the water crisis to bring attention to WHY I was getting dunked:

(This video is from a different charity. ACS is currently supporting Children’s Safe Drinking Water.)

It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture with what we do in the classroom; I wanted to make sure the link between the dunking and the water crisis was as explicit as possible.

By hook or by crook, I made sure I won and here is the result:

Tanque Verde Fundraiser

Tanque Verde ChemClub

Tanque Verde High School (TVHS) ChemClub in Tucson, AZ, joined the ChemClub program in April of this year, so we only had a week to participate in the Coins for Clean Water project.  Our ChemClub joined forces with the TVHS Student Council to organize the collection.  

Empty water bottles with information about the drive were placed in all classrooms on Monday, April 22.  We demonstrated how the purification packets work by adding the content of the packet to “dirty water” made by mixing some of the soil with the tap water.  The demonstration was viewed throughout the day by all chemistry students.  Coins were gathered at the end of the day on Friday, April 26th, and again on Tuesday, April  30th.  Student Council has helped us with counting of the donations. We collected $77.40 during the fundraisernot bad for just a week of work!