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Local sections host Chemists Celebrate Earth Week 2024

Volunteers charge up public interest in battery chemistry with hands-on activities and demonstrations

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
June 14, 2024 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 102, Issue 18


A volunteer shows a group of children standing in a science laboratory some coins of different colors.
Credit: Nevart Tahmazian
Volunteers from the District of Columbia’s Chemical Society of Washington demonstrated metal alloy chemistry in action by changing copper pennies into brass.

Volunteers from 90 local sections and three international chemical science chapters of the American Chemical Society coordinated events for the 2024 Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW).

CCEW is an ACS outreach program that promotes the positive impact of chemistry. This year’s theme was “Get a Charge Out of Chemistry.” Thousands of members of the public had the opportunity to learn about the chemistry of batteries during the week-long event, which ran from April 21 to 27.

“Our 2024 CCEW theme of batteries and electrochemistry was a big hit. Outreach groups all over the world built batteries out of pennies and foil, nails and Gatorade, and metal washers and vinegar. People learned the benefits of clean energy and discussed how to recycle and improve batteries,” says Lori R. Stepan, chair of the Committee on Community Activities, which coordinates CCEW in collaboration with the ACS Office of Science Outreach.

Below are some highlights from the 2024 celebrations:

The California Section ran a booth during Earth Day celebrations at the John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez. Visitors built batteries and learned about solar-powered water electrolysis and the composition of essential oils in common plants.

The Central Wisconsin Local Section and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Chemistry Club organized hands-on activities and handed out flyers about battery recycling at the university’s Olson Museum of Natural History.

The District of Columbia’s Chemical Society of Washington supported Rockville Science Day at Montgomery College, which was attended by 3,500 people. Volunteers from the section and members of the college’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education Club conducted six activities and handed out copies of Celebrating Chemistry magazine.

Al Hazari from the East Tennessee Section spoke at events organized by the Northeastern Section for 200 students at St. John Paul II School in Hyannis, Massachusetts, and 400 students at Sandwich High School in Sandwich, Massachusetts.

The Erie Local Section partnered with Gannon University to host hands-on experiments for approximately 40 students at an after-school program at the Bethesda Trinity Center. Activities included building a potato battery, exploring water electrolysis, and making string slime.

A child in goggles and gloves stands in front of a table with a voltaic pile on it.
Credit: Ajay Mallia
Georgia Section volunteers support children to build voltaic piles to determine how many cells it takes to light a light-emitting diode bulb.

The Georgia Section organized 20 h of outreach activities on battery chemistry at a local museum, a public college, and multiple K–12 institutions.

The Maryland Section held 16 hands-on programs in public libraries. Attendees explored atoms and electrons using Bohr model kits; observed static electricity with electroscopes; created zinc-copper cells from vinegar, galvanized nails, and copper wire; and electrolyzed water using a 9 V battery.

The Mid-Hudson Section hosted an Earth Day hike where participants walked about 10 miles on the Hudson Valley Rail Trail and crossed the Walkway Over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York.

Texas’s Midland College Student Chapter, Chemistry Club, organized an event where participants enjoyed plant-pot decorating and received free succulents.

The Nigeria Chapter’s University of Uyo International Student Chapter visited the Royalty Special College International School to talk to students about cleaner energy sources. The volunteers generated electricity from fruits during the event.

Five smiling children in goggles hold up equipment for making coin batteries.
Credit: Dana Barry
Students prepare to create batteries from pennies and aluminum foil in a session led by Northern New York Local Section volunteer Dana M. Barry.

The Northern New York Local Section’s Dana M. Barry visited local schools and helped students make and analyze batteries, talked about different battery types and how they work, and distributed CCEW resources.

The Omaha Local Section’s Joel Destino and Erin Gross and members of Creighton University’s Chemistry Club supported the Nebraska Science Festival, which attracted more than 700 attendees. Their booth offered battery and static electricity activities.

The Ouachita Valley Local Section engaged approximately 30 children at the Black Bayou Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Monroe, Louisiana, in hands-on experiments exploring water quality testing and how carbon dioxide causes ocean acidification. Volunteers also ran hands-on activities for approximately 70 children at the Boys and Girls Clubs of North Louisiana in Ruston.

Texas’s Permian Basin Local Section and the University of Texas Permian Basin Student Chapter hosted an Earth Week Extravaganza that featured a liquid nitrogen ice cream demonstration, an activity where participants crafted a bookmark while learning about nature and environmental conservation, and a clothing exchange.

Volunteers stand in a large group behind a table that holds equipment for a battery demonstration.
Credit: Sunipa Goswami
Volunteers from the Pittsburgh Section demonstrate how different energy drinks perform as electrolytes in a battery with roofing-nail electrodes.

The Pittsburgh Section and its Women Chemists Committee held a live teach-in and demonstration event for high school students at Seton Hill University.

New Jersey’s Princeton Section organized demonstrations, short talks, and poster displays on batteries, electrolysis, alternative energy sources, and related topics for over 40 visitors at the Frick Chemistry Laboratory.

A very large group of smiling people wear matching T-shirts.
Credit: Sara Delgado
Hundreds of volunteers support the Festival de Química organized by the Puerto Rico Section in San Juan.

The Puerto Rico Section held its annual Festival de Química in San Juan. Volunteers engaged hundreds of attendees in hands-on activities.

The Richland Section of southeastern Washington and northeastern Oregon organized a talk on carbon capture and hosted an activity table at the Reach Museum in Richland, Washington; 750 attendees participated in this event. The section also led hands-on activities related to batteries for approximately 30 people at the Cook Memorial Library in La Grande, Oregon.

The Southern Nevada Local Section and local college students ran hands-on activities at the Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas. Children made carbon dioxide bubbles by sublimating dry ice, explored how dye color changes with pH, built zinc-copper batteries, and wrote messages with invisible ink.

A group of seven smiling volunteers stand together. One is dressed as Darth Vader.
Credit: Milagros Delgado
Volunteers at the South Florida Local Section partnered with the Museum of Discovery and Science to run hands-on activities in a joint celebration of CCEW and Star Wars Day.
A smiling child sits at a desk and holds a button battery and a light-emitting diode bulb.
Credit: Deborah Wilkinson
Tennessee-Virginia Highlands Section volunteers help Girl Scouts send Morse code messages using light-emitting diode bulbs powered by button batteries.

The South Florida Section conducted hands-on activities at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale.

The Tennessee-Virginia Highlands Section helped a local Girl Scout troop conduct experiments highlighting battery chemistry. Activities included making coin batteries, building a battery using fruit, and sending Morse code messages with light-emitting diode bulbs powered by button batteries.

The Wyoming Local Section helped second-grade students at Slade Elementary School in Laramie build batteries. Its volunteers also visited a local Girl Scout troop to discuss the environment and recycling.

CCEW 2025 will take place April 20–26 with the glacier theme “Hot Topic, Cool Chemistry!” Information on how to get involved can be found at

CCEW 2024 Illustrated Poem Contest winners

The ACS Committee on Community Activities and Office of Science Outreach organized an illustrated poem contest during CCEW 2024. Students from grades K–12 submitted poems on the theme “Get a Charge Out of Chemistry” to local competitions held by ACS sections and chapters. A total of 50 of the local winners were considered for the national illustrated poem contest.

View the winning illustrated poems at

K to 2nd grade

First place: Clio B., Binghamton Local Section

A poem about solar panels accompanied by an illustration of a house with solar panels on the roof.
Credit: Clio B., Binghamton Local Section

Second place: Reagan R., Idaho Section

A poem called “Battery Chemistry” accompanied by illustrations of a frog and a battery.
Credit: Reagan R., Idaho Section

3rd to 5th grade

First place: Celine S., Silicon Valley Section

A poem about batteries accompanied by illustrations of batteries and positive and negative symbols.
Credit: Celine S., Silicon Valley Section

Second place: Sloan D., Southern Arizona Local Section

A poem called “The Electric Potato” accompanied by illustrations of potatoes, a lead, and lightning flashes.
Credit: Sloan D., Southern Arizona Local Section

6th to 8th grade

First place: Harper M., Western Michigan Local Section

A poem called “The Battery” accompanied by illustrations including a battery, a recycling bin, a landfill site, and a wind turbine.
Credit: Harper M., Western Michigan Local Section

Second place: Claire V., Midland Local Section

A poem about solar panels accompanied by illustrations including solar panels, a battery, the sun, and a pot of gold
Credit: Claire V., Midland Local Section

9th to 12th grade

First place: Emma M., Kentucky Lake Local Section

A poem about batteries accompanied by an illustration of a girl with lightning-flash eyes holding a large battery above her head.
Credit: Emma M., Kentucky Lake Local Section

Second place: Stephen T., Midland Local Section.

A poem about lithium batteries accompanied by illustrations including hands, an atom, and batteries.
Credit: Stephen T., Midland Local Section


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