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Local sections engage the public in Chemists Celebrate Earth Week

Weeklong celebration of the environment focused on the chemistry of paper

by Linda Wang
June 15, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 24


A group of people planting trees.
Credit: Angela Hoffman
Volunteers from the Portland Local Section planted trees for Chemists Celebrate Earth Week.

On April 21–27, more than 34,000 people engaged in hands-on activities and demonstrations at schools, shopping malls, libraries, and other public venues as part of Chemists Celebrate Earth Week.

CCEW is the American Chemical Society’s second-largest public awareness campaign, held annually to communicate the positive role that chemistry plays in the world. This year’s theme highlighted the chemistry of paper.

A majority of ACS’s 185 local sections participated in this year’s celebration, and more than 86,000 copies of the publication Celebrating Chemistry were distributed in English and Spanish. In addition, eight student winners were named in the Illustrated Poem Contest (see box).

The following are highlights of this year’s celebration around the US.

Members of the Ames Local Section learned about the chemistry behind archiving books during a tour of the Des Moines Public Library.

A group of people during a stream cleanup activity.
Credit: T. J. Mayer
Volunteers from the Central North Carolina Section helped clean up North Buffalo Creek.

The California Section treated several hundred visitors to hands-on activities at the John Muir National Historic Site. Activities included a periodic table puzzle and a demonstration of cellulose alignment in paper.

The Central North Carolina Section hosted a stream-cleaning event where volunteers removed litter from waterways.

The Central Wisconsin Section took participants on tours of the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point’s paper machine and hosted hands-on activities on making paper, building batteries, and cleaning up oil spills.

Volunteers from the Columbus Section hosted hands-on activities and visited two after-school programs for immigrants and refugees.

A group of people on a tour of a paper factory.
Credit: Ali Hilgart
Members of the Central Wisconsin Section toured the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point's paper machine.

Members of the East Central Illinois Local Section toured a local paper press, listened to a talk on how to make environmentally friendly paper, and held demonstrations at the local library.

The Erie Local Section participated in the Erie Earth Day Festival, where volunteers handed out plant seedlings and CCEW materials.

In the Georgia Section, more than 900 people participated in hands-on activities at local museums, high schools, and Georgia Gwinnett College. Participants also toured the Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking.

The Hawaii Local Section entertained a group of children at Manoa Public Library with activities such as making paper helicopters.

The Idaho Local Section cosponsored the Portneuf Valley Environmental Fair, where volunteers served liquid-nitrogen ice cream and led hands-on activities.

The Kalamazoo Section hosted outreach events at Bronson Park and the Celery Flats Interpretive Center.

The Louisiana Local Section partnered with the New Orleans Botanical Garden for an event focused on the environment and sustainability. Activity tables included using red cabbage as a pH indicator and testing the acidity of orange juice.

The Maryland Section hosted activities at nine libraries in three counties.

In the Northeast Tennessee Local Section, 74 Girl Scouts learned about the chemical properties of various types of paper.

In the Northeast Wisconsin Section, more than 100 middle school students recycled used printer paper into paper containing seeds that could be planted. The local section also participated in Earth Day programs at the Oshkosh Public Library.

Students show off the paper they made.
Credit: Marianne Augenstein
In the Northern New York Section, Dana Barry (back, center) and students from St. Mary's Catholic School show off the recycled paper they made.

The Northeastern Section organized 14 hands-on activities for more than 500 visitors to the Museum of Science in Boston. Activities included making paper and dissecting a diaper.

In the Northern New York Section, Dana Barry of Clarkson University presented a workshop on the chemistry of paper to science students at St. Mary’s Catholic School.

Gloved hands massage a gray paste in a bucket.
Credit: Monica Gutfinger
Kids learned how to make concrete during the Orange County Section’s event at California State University.

The Orange County Section hosted a workshop in which participants learned about the chemistry of concrete. Afterward, each participant made samples of concrete.

The Permian Basin Section held hands-on activities at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts’ Family Day event.

The Philadelphia Section distributed workbooks and other educational items to the United Way of Bucks County and to the Philadelphia Area Girls Enjoying Science program.

The Portland Local Section participated in a community tree-planting event in a Portland neighborhood.

The Puerto Rico Section held its annual Festival de Química celebration in San Juan. More than 500 volunteers engaged in hands-on activities with more than 1,000 visitors. Volunteers from the section also visited schools.

The San Diego Section hosted hands-on activities at the EarthFair in Balboa Park. Activities included learning about ocean acidification by dissolving seashells.

A chem catcher.
Credit: Elizabeth Migicovsky
At the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, the Silicon Valley Section showed people how to fold origami "chem catchers" with fun facts about paper.

The Silicon Valley Section held an event at the San José Public Library. Volunteers discussed the chemistry of paper while showing visitors how to fold origami. More than 60 people participated in activities.

In the South Florida Local Section, the Barry University student chapter participated in the university’s annual Earth Day Carnival. Students shared information about global warming and ocean acidification.

The Southern Arizona Local Section participated in the Tucson Earth Day Festival at Armory Park in downtown Tucson. More than 2,000 visitors engaged in activities, such as making paper and listening to environmental talks.

A young chemist holds up the paper she made.
Credit: Dylan Clevenger
Visitors to the Tucson Earth Day Festival learned how to make paper as part of the Southern Arizona Local Section’s activities.

Next year’s celebration will take place on April 19–25 with the theme “Protecting Our Planet through Chemistry.” Volunteers are invited to participate in ACS’s Outreach Training Program, which helps ACS members maximize society resources through workshops at regional meetings and online webinars. For more information, visit


Earth Day poetry

The ACS Committee on Community Activities and the ACS Office of Science Outreach have announced the winners of the 2019 Chemists Celebrate Earth Week Illustrated Poem Contest, in which K–12 students were invited to share their interpretation of this year’s theme, “Take Note: The Chemistry of Paper,” in the form of illustrated poems. First-place winners in each grade category received $300. Second-place winners received $150.

An illustrated poem by Reyansh Bejgum.
Credit: Reyansh Bejgum.
K–2nd grade
First place: Reyansh Bejgum, Kentucky Lake Local Section
Second place: Felicity Shaw, Idaho Local Section
Illustrated poem by Andrew Smith.
Credit: Andrew Smith
6th–8th grades
First place: Andrew Smith, Southern Arizona Local Section
Second place: Gabriela Domenzain-Vera, Central Arizona Section
Illustrated poem by Victoria Hernandez.
Credit: Victoria Hernandez
3rd–5th grades
First place: Victoria Hernandez, South Florida Local Section
Second place: Nadia Gremar, Portland Local Section
Illustrated poem by Pastel Schway.
Credit: Pastel Schway
9th–12th grades
First place: Pastel Schway, Silicon Valley Section
Second place: Erica Hengartner, South Florida Local Section


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