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Comment: Look through the eyes of a child today

by Lori R. Stepan, chair, ACS Committee on Community Activities
April 10, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 12


A photo of Lori R Stepan.
Credit: Maria Landschoot/Penn State University
Lori R. Stepan

Young people look at the world with a sense of mystery and wonder. Why do the clouds look puffy? What happens if I mix purple, orange, and yellow paint? Why is pond water green when ocean water looks blue? They ask us countless questions, and they try all sorts of experiments because they are natural scientists. They’re always thinking, and they learn by doing. The more they experiment, the more they learn, and the more questions they ask.

We should take every opportunity to teach young people how the world works. Our future depends on it. Young people that have been encouraged to experiment become adults that trust scientists and the scientific method. Many of them may even become scientists themselves. A proscience population becomes especially important when we consider the environmental issues facing the world. We need scientists and nonscientists to work together to solve many global problems, such as climate change and the prevalence of microplastics.

The upcoming celebration of Earth Day presents a wonderful opportunity to get young people excited about science. Why not take this opportunity to show young people how important it is to get involved in saving the planet, teach them we can work together to help solve large and small problems with chemistry, foster their curiosity, and inspire them with your passion?

Young people that have been encouraged to experiment become adults that trust scientists and the scientific method.

Earth Day was founded in 1970 to educate people about environmental issues. The American Chemical Society began promoting Chemists Celebrate Earth Day in 2003 to emphasize the importance of chemistry to the planet. In 2018, the event was extended to an entire week and became Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW). This year, CCEW will take place April 16–22. ACS groups will join others around the globe to hold events highlighting environmental issues and promoting science and chemistry.

The theme for CCEW 2023 is “The Curious Chemistry of Amazing Algae,” and the resources created by the ACS Committee on Community Activities (CCA) center on algae and their important role on our planet. The latest edition of Celebrating Chemistry has articles on edible algae, experiments with gels, and fluorescent algae. Hard copies in English and Spanish are available to local section coordinators for free, and digital copies can be found at Many other CCEW K–12 educational resources are also available on this website and at for students, parents, volunteers, and teachers. You can learn how to enter the CCEW poetry contest, watch a video about cow burps, find out how to participate in the Great Global Cleanup, and print out and assemble the 12 principles of green chemistry dodecahedron.

CCA has many roles beyond CCEW. We design and promote new outreach campaigns every year for National Chemistry Week (NCW) in October. We provide a variety of resources and tools to support outreach and education throughout the year. We design tool kits and host training sessions for educators and outreach volunteers. We provide recognition for outstanding volunteers and supporters through ChemLuminary Awards, Outreach Volunteer of the Year Awards, and Salutes to Excellence. We work with the ACS Committee on International Activities and the Society Committee on Education to support chemistry festivals around the world, and we honor a Global Volunteer of the Year. We address safety training through our Safety in Outreach Settings program. And finally, we offer a live Kids Zone outreach event on the Saturday before every spring and fall ACS meeting; it is centered on the current theme and supported by the ACS president.

Would you like to be involved in hosting or joining an outreach event for the upcoming CCEW celebration? The first thing to do is contact your ACS local section at to find out what it may be planning. Would you like to be involved in designing the next outreach campaign? Any ACS member is welcome to join a theme team for an upcoming CCEW or NCW campaign. You can contribute articles and activities for the Celebrating Chemistry publication or design other resources that will be used around the world. Maybe you would like to be interviewed by the ACS mascot Meg A. Mole. Perhaps you would like to share your own resources and ideas. Let us know how you want to be involved. In fact, any ACS member can request to join CCA if a spot is available. Just complete a committee preference form at Come join us in sharing our love of chemistry. Contact us at to find out how you can participate.

I hope you will participate in CCEW this year, and I hope you will have a chance to teach a young person something new. Don’t forget your sense of wonder and curiosity. I challenge you to look at the world through the eyes of a child today.

Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of C&EN or ACS.



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