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Local sections participate in Chemists Celebrate Earth Week 2023

Chemists engaged the public in a week of hands-on activities and demonstrations related to algae chemistry

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
June 9, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 19


From April 16 to 22, American Chemical Society members from 96 local sections and four international chemical science chapters coordinated events for Chemists Celebrate Earth Week (CCEW).

This year’s theme was “The Curious Chemistry of Amazing Algae.” Thousands of people took part in hands-on activities or watched demonstrations at museums, parks, schools, libraries, and other public venues, as well as online.

“Our CCEW celebration this year has been a big success. Groups all over the world explored the chemistry of algae, including its properties as an edible and nutritious plant, and its role in providing food, habitat, and oxygen in a healthy ecosystem,” says Lori R. Stepan, chair of the Committee on Community Activities, which coordinates CCEW in collaboration with the ACS Office of Science Outreach.

Free CCEW resources provided by ACS include the magazine Celebrating Chemistry, published in English and Spanish. This year, 46,750 copies in English and 3,550 copies in Spanish were distributed. ACS also sponsored an illustrated poem contest for K–12 students.

The following are highlights of the 2023 celebrations:

The Binghamton Local Section partnered with Binghamton University to organize a booth with hands-on demonstrations at the annual Earth Day Festival in Recreation Park.

The California Section hosted booths at North Bay Science Discovery Day at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and an Earth Day celebration at the John Muir National Historic Site.

Child stood behind a fish tank containing algae plants.
Credit: Alex Madonik
The California Section encouraged visitors to observe algae plants at North Bay Science Discovery Day at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.

The Central Arkansas Local Section hosted an online talk by member Felicia Osburn on freshwater phytoplankton and their role in aquatic ecosystems for 37 attendees.

The Central Massachusetts Local Section and the Northeastern Massachusetts Section organized hands-on algae-themed activities for more than 200 children at the Discovery Museum in Acton.

The Central Wisconsin Local Section hosted a public talk about nitrate fertilizer and algae blooms by Kevin Masarik, a local groundwater education specialist.

The Chemical Society of Washington supported Rockville Science Day at Montgomery College. Approximately 100 exhibitors engaged more than 3,500 visitors in interactive science exhibits, games, and demonstrations.

The Eastern New York Section organized an event in the Armory Shed at Russell Sage College with demonstrations on algae’s uses and explanations of water testing analysis.

The Erie Local Section partnered with a local university to provide hands-on activities on the chemistry of algae to 42 K–9 students at an after-school care facility in a low-income area.

A child wearing safety goggles adds colorful pieces to a sheet of paper.
Credit: Ajay Mallia
Georgia Section volunteers helped visitors to the Fernbank Science Center make spheres from alginate.

Volunteers from the Georgia Section organized about 20 hours of outreach activities on the chemistry of algae at the Fernbank Science Center and multiple K–12 institutions.

On behalf of the Green Mountain Local Section, two undergraduate students at Landmark College produced a 4 min video describing the differences between shelf-stable and refrigerated gel-based snacks. The students also created an in-person demonstration of the activity for a Chemistry of Magic class. The video was disseminated on social media platforms and to the college as a whole through the Daily Digest.

The Kansas City Section ran a Save Mother Earth afternoon in collaboration with teachers of grades K–6 at Pershing Elementary School. Students created solar cars and buggies and helped with gardening.

The Lehigh Valley Section and the Division of Environmental Chemistry coordinated an Earth Day Symposium for the public at Cedar Crest College. The section also hosted a community outreach event for about 75 children.

The Mark Twain Local Section organized a community cleanup with a local Scout group.

The Maryland Local Section held 13 1-hour, hands-on programs in public libraries in five Maryland counties.

The Mid-Hudson Section hosted an Earth Day hike at Clarence Fahnestock Memorial State Park. Participants trekked 4.5 miles while observing Thomas Edison’s field laboratories, iron mines, and newly sprung spring flora.

The Midland and Permian Basin Sections cosponsored an Earth Day Action Expo at Dow High School with around 60 exhibitors. ACS volunteers ran hands-on activities on photosynthetic pigments and the algae polymers alginate and carrageenan.

The Nashville Local Section and the Tennessee Tech University student chapter organized hands-on activities during Nashville Earth Day.

Four people stand behind a table with equipment for experiments laid out on it.
Credit: Jennifer McKenzie
Volunteers from the Nashville Local Section and Tennessee Tech University’s student chapter helped visitors to a Nashville Earth Day event make alginate gels and spheres and explore the properties of algae.

The New Jersey Section hosted an event at the Meadowlands Environment Center with demonstrations and activities on the chemistry of algae. Sue Lewicki, the center’s educator, also gave an interactive talk.

The New York Local Section coorganized a Chemists Celebrate Earth Week event at the Jones Beach Energy and Nature Center for over 100 attendees.

Northeastern Section coorganized an event with Salem University and the Museum of Science in which visitors participated in hands-on activities during the 2-day “Rise Up Boston: A Climate Event”.

The Northeastern Wisconsin Local Section held activity-station events on Earth Day at the Oshkosh Public Library, the Neenah Public Library, and the Atlas Science Center. Activities included making worms using sodium alginate and taking pictures of algae through microscopes.

Two children and one adult wearing safety spectacles at a table in a museum.
Credit: Kara Nell
Visitors to the Atlas Science Center made alginate worms with the help of volunteers from the Northeastern Wisconsin Local Section.

The Northern New York Section’s Dana M. Barry visited local schools to talk about algae used in foods, demonstrate algae bioluminescence using glow sticks, help students carry out algae-themed experiments, and distribute CCEW resources.

People in a classroom each holding up a magazine.
Credit: Courtesy of Dana M. Barry
Dana M. Barry from the Northern New York Local Section visited St. Catherine of Siena Academy and handed out copies of Celebrating Chemistry magazine.

The Omaha Local Section hosted a booth at NE SciFest Public Expo at the Durham Museum. Over 700 visitors were engaged in activities that included using alginate beads to encapsulate food coloring and fluorescence to look for chlorophyll in algae.

The Ouachita Valley Local Section visited Lake Hamilton High School to run a hands-on demonstration of fruit juice titration.

The Pittsburgh Local Section sent 100 experiment kits to teachers and parents in their local area. The kits contained materials for using ultraviolet (UV) flashlights to search for chlorophyll in algae.

Volunteers from the Puerto Rico Section engaged visitors in hands-on activities at its annual Festival de Química in San Juan; more than 1,500 people attended.

Puget Sound Section volunteers used sodium alginate to demonstrate the chemistry of algae during an Earth Day event at McKenny Elementary School.

The Richland Local Section conducted hands-on activities at a local library and at the Reach Museum.

The Sacramento Local Section ran hands-on activities at the Sacramento Earth Day Event. Attendees performed an experiment with Jell-O and used UV flashlights to search for chlorophyll in food color, algae, and kale mixtures.

The South Central Missouri Local Section participated in an Earth Day event at the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

The Southern Arizona Section ran experiments at an Earth Day Festival at Armory Park that included making alginate worms and bracelets with UV-sensitive beads.

The Southern Nevada Local Section partnered with the Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas to welcome over 150 children participating in activities coordinated by ACS volunteers.

The South Florida Local Section hosted outreach activities at the Museum of Discovery and Science that included using microscopes to compare red and green algae and algae trivia.

The Tennessee-Virginia Highlands Section helped local Girl Scouts make alginate worms and hunt for chlorophyll in algae using fluorescence.

A large group of children pose in front of a building named Ross Hall.
Credit: Angelina Carney
Volunteers from the Tennessee-Virginia Highlands Section hosted an event for local Girl Scouts.

CCEW 2024 will take place April 21–27 with the theme “Get a Charge Out of Chemistry.” Information on how to get involved in CCEW can be found at

2023 CCEW Illustrated Poem Contest winners

As part of 2023 Chemists Celebrate Earth Week, K–12 students were invited to enter an illustrated poem contest on the theme, “The Curious Chemistry of Amazing Algae.” The ACS Committee on Community Activities and the ACS Office of Science Outreach coordinated this contest; first place in each grade category received $300, and second place received $150.

K to 2nd grade

First place: Adelyn M., Kentucky Lake Local Section

A poem about algae in the sea accompanied by illustrations of a snorkeler and algae plants.
Credit: Adelyn M., Kentucky Lake Local Section

Second place: Dishika K., Virginia Section

A poem about the importance of healthy sea life accompanied by illustrations that include an algae plant, a shark, a fish, and a boat.
Credit: Dishika K., Virginia Section

3rd to 5th grade

First place: Katherine F., Central Texas Local Section

A poem called Delicious Algae accompanied by an illustration of fish behind an algae plant.
Credit: Katherine F., Central Texas Local Section

Second place: Gabriella C., Maryland Local Section

A poem about the pros and cons of algae accompanied by illustrations that include an algae bloom on a lake and a dog.
Credit: Gabriella C., Maryland Local Section

6th to 8th grade

First place: Akshara K., Chicago Local Section

A poem about the pros and cons of algae accompanied by illustrations that include a microscopic image of algae and a mole dressed as a chemist.
Credit: Akshara K., Chicago Local Section

Second place: Raenne L., Silicon Valley Local Section

A poem about algae’s oxygen production and bioluminescent properties accompanied by illustrations including a bioluminescent algae bloom.
Credit: Raenne L., Silicon Valley Local Section

9th to 12th grade

First place: Louis H., Midland Local Section

A poem called Unsung Hero Under the Water accompanied by illustrations including a container for liquid seaweed fertilizer, a nozzle for biofuel, and pictures depicting importance of phytoplankton in the food chain.
Credit: Louis H., Midland Local Section

Second place: Zoe P., Mid-Hudson Section.


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