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December 17, 2001
Volume 79, Number 51
CENEAR 79 51 pp. 58-63
ISSN 0009-2347
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National Chemistry Week 2001 highlights the relationship between art and chemistry

MASTERPIECE The South Plains Section members and Texas Tech University students team up to pose the question, "It's chemistry, but is it art?"


During Nov. 4–10, the American Chemical Society held its annual National Chemistry Week (NCW). The weeklong celebration sponsored by the ACS Membership Division was conceived as an outreach program aimed at enhancing the public's awareness of the contributions that chemistry has made and is making to society.

Under this year's theme, "Celebrating Chemistry and Art," local sections organized events that included chemical demonstrations and hands-on activities to illustrate the connection between art and chemistry. Activities were targeted at the general public and designed for all ages.

Local sections were also encouraged to participate in a poster contest, "Celebrating Chemistry: Then & Now," in conjunction with the 125th anniversary celebration of ACS. Students in grades K–12 were invited to create posters that illustrate how chemists and chemistry have contributed to positive changes in the quality of our lives in the past 125 years.

LOOK OUT, PICASSO A young artist participates in Northeastern Ohio's "Portrait of Chemistry" activity. COLOR INDICATORS Bill Town prepares acid-base indicator solutions to show color changes effected by acids or bases during a chemistry show sponsored by the Eastern New York Section.
A contest for undergraduate students asked them to design a T-shirt with the theme "Chemistry: The Winning Formula" to promote chemistry and its positive contributions to everyday life. Entries for both contests will be judged and displayed at the ACS national meeting in Orlando in April.

The Membership Division sent out more than 155,000 copies of the activity publication "Celebrating Chemistry & Art" as well as more than 67,000 copies of the October issue of ChemMatters to local sections for distribution at local NCW events.

AS IT HAS DONE in the past, the ACS Publications Division granted free access to all the Web editions of its journals and magazines during the week. For example, C&EN's July 30 cover story on Chemistry and Art (page 51) was available free. The free access was met with an overwhelming response, resulting in the need to limit access to off-peak hours. More than 8,150 users registered to use the online publications.

The following is a sampling of the events that occurred during NCW. More information about a specific section's activities is available on each section's individual website, which can be accessed through the NCW website at

Some sections got a jump on NCW, using Halloween to get the message of chemistry in art to people of all ages. The Minnesota Section invited the entire campus of Inver Hills Community College to celebrate chemistry on Halloween by dressing up as a chemical element or compound. The faculty and staff of the college performed demonstrations and magic tricks for all the costumed students.

Senior citizens volunteered for "Hallow Chemistry," an event organized by the Nashville Section. The seniors helped do chemistry and art activities at the "Halloween Alternative Event" in the community. The program provided children of all ages with a window to the exciting world of chemistry.

GOGGLE-EYED Elizabeth Kuntz dyes fabric using Kool-Aid at an event organized by the Cleveland Section. TICK-TOCK Joshua Harding waits patiently for the color change to occur in an oscillating reaction as part of Michigan State University Section's Chemistry Day.
And what would Halloween be without a carved pumpkin or two? The Northern New York Section must have had that in mind when they held the "Periodic Pumpkin" event. Clarkson University student affiliates helped local children, fellow students, and faculty carve all of the chemical elements into pumpkins and organize them into a periodic table.

Carved pumpkins weren't the only things bearing chemical symbols. The Middle Georgia Section held a "Periodic Table of the Elements Cupcake Sale" with the help of area student affiliates. The Kalamazoo Section, with the help of area high school students, also prepared tasty delights topped with chemical element symbols.

And the Washington-Idaho Border Section used the periodic table as the focus of one of its events. The section members collected numerous Native American mole sculptures and arranged them on the basis of their chemical composition to form a "Periodic Table of Moles."

FROM CHEMICAL element pumpkins to mole sculptures, the periodic table was everywhere--including on faculty members. The faculty of the University of Central Oklahoma dressed as their favorite chemical elements as part of the Oklahoma Section's NCW celebration. They marched in hourly parades through classrooms and had students guess which element they represented.

Many sections used print, radio, and TV outlets to disperse information about NCW to the general public. For example, Cincinnati worked with the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper to organize a weeklong section highlighting local chemists who have made important contributions to science and society. One of those highlighted was the developer of the first oral polio vaccine, Albert Sabin.

EASY DOES IT! Jenna Leone (left) and Mas Webb focus on pouring as they take part in the St. Louis Section's "Battle of the Burets." SHAKE IT UP At the Eastern New York Section's museum event, Chad and Jamie Eggleston oxidize dextrose, which turns their respective indicators yellow and blue.

The Savannah River Section, with help from the National Science Center in Augusta, Ga., filmed a video, "Chemistry of the Familiar." The video, which aired nationally during NCW, contains demonstrations focusing on energy targeted at middle school students. Copies of the video are available from the center.

The Indiana Section lit up the airways as its way of kicking off its NCW activities. The section surprised and dazzled TV viewers who tuned into the local Fox network's morning show. The decomposition of hydrogen peroxide demonstrated by Christy Jacobi, a local chemist, really grabbed the audience's attention.

Many local schools were at the receiving end of NCW activities. Sections such as Maryland, Philadelphia, Puget Sound, Trenton, and Washington (D.C.) all wowed elementary, middle, and high school students with chemical demonstrations, lectures, and hands-on activities, such as making slime and making ink.

The Carolina-Piedmont Section co-sponsored "Chemistry in Art," a program in which 150 students in grades K–3 in seven classrooms throughout Watauga County, North Carolina, participated. The activities included making autumn leaves from coffee filters, cabbage juice sea creatures, and goldenrod paper snakes.

Students from 22 area schools were invited to attend the Northeast Tennessee Section's "Chemistry for Fourth Graders" program. Students were able to observe and participate in demonstrations on fire, colorful dyes, fluorescence, electricity, oscillation reactions, and pH. The event also included booths hosted by local industry, safety presentations, and a magic show.

The fifth-grade classes of Brazoria County, Texas, received a visit from Brazosport Section chemists for the 13th consecutive year. The chemists helped the students perform experiments that focused on the art and chemistry theme with a patriotic twist. Students made ink using a Colonial recipe of tea and ferrous sulfate, and then used it to sign a "Declaration of NCW."

The Norwich Section organized an open house at a local New York high school that featured hands-on activities as well as liquid nitrogen ice-cream samples. The activities were tailored to fourth through sixth graders.

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MOLECULE HEAD Luke Woodward had fun while learning about chemistry at the Columbus Section's International Festival. MARK IT UP The Greater Houston Section's "Chemistry for Cool Kids" gave visitors a chance to make butterflies with marker designs.
SECTION ACTIVITIES for students were not limited to school events. Some made use of ever-popular field trips. Jacksonville, Fla., was one of those. There, the section members gathered a group of area high school and middle school students to embark on a journey to explore the wonders of chemistry at the Museum of Science & History.

The Illinois-Iowa Section also tapped into students' love of field trips. In collaboration with the Clinton Plant of DuPont Packaging & Industrial Products, the section sponsored the "Fun with Science" program--a 75-minute presentation packed with demonstrations illustrating many scientific principles. Over a two-week period, more than 700 fifth graders, their teachers, and parents from 13 area school districts took part in the program at the DuPont Pavilion.

Scouts were also a popular target of NCW activities. They got into the fun with activities such as "Mad Scientist Fantasy" cosponsored by the Brazosport Section. Scouts from six counties in southern Texas participated in the half-day event that included hands-on activities showing the fun side of chemistry.

The Binghamton Section hosted "A Day with Harry Potter" for the Indian Hills Girl Scout Council. An "Alchemist Wizard" performed demonstrations with dry ice and liquid nitrogen for 160 fourth- through sixth-grade girls. The event also included a discussion of fireworks and polymers.

The Cincinnati Section also sponsored a Harry Potter theme event. They employed Snape's apprentice--the aspiring student of a potion wizard--to perform demonstrations at a volunteer training session held at the Procter & Gamble Miami Valley Laboratories. Forty NCW volunteers along with 50 Cub Scouts and their families were dazzled and educated in the magical world of chemistry and physics.

EDUCATION IS the core of every NCW. With this in mind, several sections held events to inform and arm teachers with information and ideas to make learning chemistry fun.

Conferences were one venue used to disseminate information to teachers. Several demonstrations were performed by the New York Section at a statewide high school teachers conference. And the Southern California Section held its own teachers conference with talks that focused on conservation science and color chemistry.

Banking on the idea that everyone loves a good show, several sections organized demonstration-filled chemistry shows. The Heart O'Texas Section cosponsored "Demos in the Dark," a program of spectacular chemical demonstrations choreographed to appropriate music and comical sound bytes and held in an amphitheater on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

The main event of the Delaware Section was its Chemistry Expo celebrating chemistry and art, which was held on the campus of Delaware Technical Community College (DTCC). Section members, University of Delaware student affiliates, and DTCC staff supervised a number of hands-on activities such as making slime and sculpture dough as well as a surface tension activity using ink and absorbant paper.

The Baton Rouge Section along with the chemistry department of Louisiana State University organized "Super Science Saturday," a hands-on program targeted to fourth through eighth graders. Twelve groups from both industry and academia provided activities to increase interest and awareness of science and chemistry.

Within eyesight of the devastated ground zero area of New York City, the North Jersey Section held two daylong events to show the beauty of chemistry. Hundreds of volunteers oversaw 60 hands-on activity tables visited by thousands of attendees. Activities included chromatography experiments using paper or chalk and stained glass window preparation.

The Eastern New York Section also celebrated NCW by presenting a magic show at the New York State Museum in Albany. Each of the three showings included demonstrations of chemical phenomena that entertained and educated all those in attendance.

The wonders of chemistry were illustrated in the "Magic of Chemistry" show sponsored by the East Tennessee Section. The crowd of nearly 400 people of all ages joined in singing happy birthday to ACS to start the show. They were then treated to a variety of demonstrations that included rubbing a glass genie bottle that contained hydrogen peroxide and a catalyst to make a chemical genie appear in the form of steam.

The Columbus Section got the party started by teaming up with the United Nations local chapter to offer activities featuring chemistry in art at the Columbus International Festival, a community gathering that celebrates cultural diversity in the framework of unity. A group of industrial chemists, chemistry professors, and students shared their enthusiasm for chemistry with the public by performing demonstrations and allowing the visitors to try some of their own.

Speaking of parties, did someone say it's time for a carnival? No, not the five-day celebration in Venezuela, for example, but the "Carnival of Chemistry" held by the University of Kansas Section. The open-house event was geared toward elementary and middle school children, but it provided fun activities and demonstrations about the chemistry of color for all those who attended.

Area Boys & Girls Clubs also got into the carnival mood at the Wichita Falls-Duncan Section's "Chemistry Carnival." Children were treated to a variety of demonstrations, including turning zinc-plated pennies into "gold" and making T-shirts with colored chromatography.

What's as much fun as a carnival? The mall, of course. From "Think Science Day" sponsored by the Corning Section to "Hands-on Discovery" sponsored by the Indiana-Kentucky Border Section, the mall played host to numerous NCW activities. Other sections holding mall events included Erie, Idaho, Kansas State University, University of Arkansas, and Western Michigan.

With the holidays approaching, many malls turn into zoos. That's just where the Orange County Section turned for one of its activities. The section held a chemistry show- and-tell for the visitors of the Santa Ana Zoo.

FOR MOST PEOPLE, the best way to learn is by doing, and doing was the name of the game at the Florida Section's hot-air balloon festival. Students in the fifth grade at Bartow Elementary Academy, with the help of section members and school staff, made hot-air balloons from tissue paper as they studied gas laws, temperature, heat expansion, and density. The balloons were then launched at the festival with four different methods of lift. Students had to predict which method would work best and, following the launch, write about their observations and conclusions.

BANNER DAY Enthusiastic children display an NCW banner at the hot-air balloon festival held by the Florida Section.

From the tranquility of floating through the air to that of wandering through a museum, chemistry was everywhere. Many sections--including Northeastern Ohio, Northwest Louisiana, Pittsburgh, San Gorgonio, South Carolina, South Florida, and Syracuse--organized various demonstrations and hands-on activities during daylong events at area museums and science centers.

The Lansing, Mich.-based Impression 5 Science Center--a hands-on science museum--was the site of "Chemistry Day." The event, organized by the Michigan State University Section, provided visitors with an opportunity to watch and participate in several chemical experiments. In keeping with this year's theme, experiments such as chromatography butterflies, paper marbling, and silver-plating glass were included in the event.

The Greater Houston Section treated nearly 850 area elementary school children, their family members, and teachers to a field trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The event, titled "Chemistry for Cool Kids," invited the children to participate in a series of hands-on activities--such as balloon racer, memory plastic, and skewer a balloon--that were led by area college and high school chemistry students.

The Louisiana Children's Museum in New Orleans provided the backdrop for one of the Louisiana Section's activities. Area elementary school students were invited to enjoy stations with exercises ranging from making slime to making liquid nitrogen ice cream. The highlight of the event was a performance of Casey Carle's Bubble-Mania, a soap-bubble spectacular that mixes comedy with the science of bubbles.

The Detroit Section organized several hands-on activities at the Cranbrook Institute of Science. Visitors were also able to make their own ink from tea and iron tablets and, using a feather, write as people did in Colonial times.

PIE ANYONE? Carving a periodic table of elements into pumpkins was on the agenda of activities for the Northern New York Section.

JUST HOW INTIMATELY are chemistry and art related? That's the question the St. Louis Section tried to answer at its event at the St. Louis Science Center. Visitors learned about the intricacies of this relationship through watching demonstrations and participating in a variety of hands-on activities including creating frescoes and making slime.

Pulling in artists, dancers, and musicians was part of one of the events sponsored by the Toledo Section. The Toledo Museum of Art provided the venue for visitors to see the applications of chemistry to art through tours of the museum's restored art pieces.

In collaboration with the Boston Museum of Art, the Northeastern Section sponsored and hosted an all-day event filled with workshops and exhibits at the Boston Museum of Science. Visitors enjoyed a paint and plaster workshop, an art forgery exhibit, and an art preservation demonstration.

The art forgery exhibit would have come in handy for a group of high school students participating in a "Whodunit?" event organized by the LaCrosse-Winona Section. The plot involved a staged art forgery with three suspect forgeries and three possible artistic scoundrels. The students were assigned to different forensic teams and given access to eight chemical instruments to help solve the mystery. Awards were given to the teams that provided the best arguments for solving the crime.

Contests are always a favorite NCW activity. Using this year's unifying theme, "Celebrating Chemistry: Then & Now," sections such as Southwest Georgia held poster contests.

The Puerto Rico Section sponsored a contest designed to elucidate the importance of chemistry in art. The event required middle and high school students to do an art project and also understand the chemistry involved in that artwork. It included painting, ceramics, artistic design, digital art, publicity art, and sculpture.

In addition to a poster contest and a lab coat decorating contest, the Cleveland Section cosponsored a chemistry contest that asked the question, "What do you think about ink?" Students searched for answers by creating and testing "inks" made from gel glue, dyes (food coloring), and pigments such as cinnamon and turmeric.

The Auburn Section used the tried-and-true process of tie-dyeing T-shirts as the theme for its contest. Section members produced "The Art of Tie-Dyeing," a video designed to illustrate the process to high school students, and, with the help of Tuskegee University student affiliates and faculty members, 50 students tie-dyed T-shirts. The student affiliates then judged the shirts, awarding first-, second-, and third-place prizes for the most creative T-shirt.

Lehigh Valley and Sioux Valley are just two of many other sections that used tie-dyeing as an example of chemistry in art.

Children were not the only focus of NCW activities. The Central Wisconsin Section treated the young-at-heart from an area nursing home to several demonstrations. The seniors were entertained by various types of reactions, including acid-base reactions.

A dramatic reading of Carl Djerassi and Roald Hoffmann's play "Oxygen" by Miami University Middletown chemistry and drama students was a highlight of the activities of the Dayton Section. The play, which alternates between 1777 and 2001 and probes ethical issues related to discovery and priority, was attended by area college students, high school students, and the general public.

"Oxygen" was also presented several times in Raleigh, N.C., during NCW. The play was cosponsored by the North Carolina Section and Sigma Xi. Nobel Laureate Hoffmann of Cornell University introduced each performance and led a postperformance discussion.

IN A TRIBUTE to Glenn Seaborg, the California Section set up an ACS display in a section on the Kleeberger Field--known as the FunZone--at the University of California, Berkeley. The section members greeted fans of all ages with NCW souvenirs including Nan O Moles and "Sg--Element 106--Seaborgium" temporary tattoos. The tribute continued during the first quarter of the football game that followed when the members charged the field, unfurling an NCW banner and a giant Sg--Element 106 banner.

Sick and disadvantaged children were also included in NCW activities. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital was the site of one of the activities organized by the Memphis Section. Both inpatient and outpatient children and their families were entertained with demonstrations and hands-on activities.

The South Plains Section organized a workshop for children from the Buckner Baptist Children's Homes--which are home to at-risk youths from six to eight years old who have either been removed from their parents or guardians by the state or are orphans. "The Isle of Lumen and the Search for Buried Treasure: A Chromo-Mystery" was an hourlong activity that introduced students to the concepts of paper chromatography, what makes a color, and how dyes work.

Another popular NCW activity was campus open houses. The Huron Valley Section sponsored a program titled "Saturday Morning in the Lab" at Eastern Michigan University. The Texas A&M and Colorado Sections also hosted open houses at Texas A&M University and the University of Colorado, respectively.

Each year, participation in NCW continues to grow, and the appreciation of chemistry by the general public follows. This growth is possible only because of the large number of volunteers who make NCW a success by helping to organize and staff events held throughout the country in malls, schools, science and art museums, and other venues.

ART CONSERVATION Michael Douma and Michael Henchman pose with the painting "Reading in the Forest" at the Forsyth Institute, Boston, during the "Chemistry and Art" symposium sponsored by the Northeastern Section.

Chemical & Engineering News
Copyright © 2001 American Chemical Society

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