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Healthy Turnout

December 13, 2004 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 82, Issue 50

The Northeast Tennessee Section fascinated students at its "Celebration of Chemistry for Fourth Graders" in Kingsport.
The Northeast Tennessee Section fascinated students at its "Celebration of Chemistry for Fourth Graders" in Kingsport.

Drawing inspiration from increasing media attention and public awareness of health issues, thousands of American Chemical Society volunteers gathered at museums, universities, malls, and local schools for this year's National Chemistry Week, which had the theme "Health & Wellness." The annual NCW festivities, which took place Oct. 17–23, aimed to communicate the positive effects chemistry has on everyday life.

Nearly all 189 ACS local sections hosted or organized events for NCW 2004. The Committee on Community Activities (CCA), which oversees ACS's National Chemistry Week activities, encouraged sections to host health awareness fairs as "unifying events"; in addition, sections also organized seminars, demonstrations, museum exhibitions, and school visits for the event. Taking advantage of NCW's timing, many sections also featured Mole Day (Oct. 23) or Halloween activities.

Volunteer efforts were bolstered by an official endorsement by U.S. Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona. It reads: "This year's National Chemistry Week focus on making healthy choices and being active will allow lots of people to live longer, healthier lives. But sometimes, the miracles of science have to step in and help out. By combining the benefits of prevention (eating well, exercising, and of course, not smoking) with the promise of scientific discovery, we can ensure a healthier tomorrow for all of us." As it has since 1995, ACS also received a presidential proclamation supporting NCW's efforts to promote and educate the public about chemistry.

Many ACS members got a preview of NCW at the society's national meeting in Philadelphia, where CCA, the Younger Chemists Committee, and the Philadelphia Section organized a health awareness fair and blood drive on Aug. 25 at the Gallery at Market East shopping center in downtown Philadelphia. The event drew large crowds of both chemists and the general public.

Also in Philadelphia, CCA recognized Helen M. Free for making a large donation that led to the creation of an NCW endowment. And Bayer HealthCare's Diagnostics Division was honored for donating $260,000 in materials, including Clinistix, Multistix, and digital glucose monitors, that were distributed to local sections for NCW 2004 activities.

"We take a very thoughtful look at what is happening not only in chemistry but in science in general" when choosing an NCW theme, says Robert De Groot, chair of CCA's National Chemistry Week Subcommittee and a member of the Southern California Section. "Our goal is highlighting the connection to chemistry in everyday life and emphasizing ACS's public service role as well. The society is playing a very important role in sharing information on this very relevant topic and making that information accessible to the public." In particular, increasing media attention on health topics prompted this year's theme. "The litmus test was the health fair at the Philadelphia meeting," he adds. "We got a great response."

For its NCW efforts, the society had approximately 70 major partners who provided donations of time and material, cross-promotions, and logistical support. Major companies that participated include Praxair, Rhodia, Air Products & Chemicals, Ciba Specialty Chemicals, Kodak, Bayer, and BASF. Other organizations that took part include the Society for Advancement of Chicanos & Native Americans in Science, the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists & Chemical Engineers, the American Association of Clinical Chemists, the American Chemistry Council, the Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association, the Soap & Detergent Association, and the American Society for Microbiology.

Left: Students perform color indicator tests for pH at Brazosport Section activities. Right: The Princeton Section open house featured CO2 bubble demonstrations.
Left: Students perform color indicator tests for pH at Brazosport Section activities. Right: The Princeton Section open house featured CO2 bubble demonstrations.

IN ADDITION, ACS redesigned its website,, in October to provide easier access to NCW information and to make issues of several ACS journals and other health-related content, including articles from C&EN, free to visitors registered with the site. Site visitors can still receive free access to the first issue of the calendar year for any ACS journal. The American Association for the Advancement of Science provided free access to its Healthy People Library Project (, a collection of online books explaining the science of several diseases, and the Journal of Chemical Education opened up access to some of its health-related articles.

As in 2003, ACS also held two national contests in association with NCW. In the poster contest, kindergarten through 12th-grade students were asked to submit posters depicting health and wellness concepts to their local sections. Each section will submit their best entries in four grade categories to ACS by Jan. 28, 2005. Winners in each category will be chosen at the spring national meeting in San Diego; first-place winners will receive a handheld color TV, runners-up will receive a set of two-way radios, and the teachers of winning students will receive a "Periodic Table of the Elephants" poster.

The Chemvention competition challenged student affiliate chapters to solve a common chemical problem using less than $250 in materials. The challenge this year was "to develop a colorimetric test that will allow you to measure the amount of albumin in an aqueous solution of powdered egg whites as accurately and precisely as possible. The test sample shall be prepared by dissolving 1.0 g of powdered egg whites in 0.50-L distilled water," according to the competition website. The winner will be selected from five finalists at the spring national meeting and will receive $2,000 for the purchase of a computer system at the Student Affiliates Award Ceremony; runners-up will each receive a $50 pizza party.

To celebrate NCW, local sections planned events both to emphasize chemistry's contributions to everyday life and to highlight the services ACS can provide to the public. "NCW is important because of its community outreach aspect," says V. Michael Mautino, chair of CCA. "It gives us a chance to reach out to the community and show them a different side of chemistry and the chemical enterprise. A lot of times, the community only sees the negative, and this gives us the opportunity to show the positive aspects of chemistry."

Mautino helped to organize the Pittsburgh Local Section's NCW itinerary, including events at the Carnegie Science Center on Oct. 22 and 23. During the two days, nearly 260 volunteers conducted hands-on experiments, activities, and demonstrations for more than 4,000 visitors. The section placed a high emphasis on serving schools in lower income areas by funding transportation to the center and providing free admission to the rest of the science center for students.

"Our event went very well, especially reaching students, which was our main goal," said Mautino. "We spent a lot of money getting people down to the event, especially inner-city students. It's the right way to spend our money."

C&EN asked local sections to provide summaries of their NCW activities; some of the highlights are listed here.

ACS staff in Washington, D.C., partnered with the American Chemistry Council and volunteers from the Chemical Society of Washington to visit Poe Middle School, Lucy Moten Elementary School, and Rock Creek Elementary School and perform hands-on activities for more than 900 students; more than 130 high school chemistry students celebrated NCW at the District of Columbia's Martin Luther King Jr. Library. ACS staff also had an in-house health fair and awards reception.

Left: The Southern Indiana Section hosted a "haunted" laboratory. Below: Vitamin C tests were featured by the Northeastern Ohio Section.
Left: The Southern Indiana Section hosted a "haunted" laboratory. Below: Vitamin C tests were featured by the Northeastern Ohio Section.

LOCAL SECTIONS from Ohio, the home of ACS's Chemical Abstracts Service operation, maintained their extensive NCW programs. The Northeastern Ohio Section, for example, joined with students and professors from Lakeland Community College and Lake Erie College to hold demonstrations and set up hands-on activities at Mentor Public Library on Oct. 23.

Approximately 120 volunteers from the Greater Cincinnati Section visited more than 45 local universities, museums, high schools, government laboratories, and libraries to hold chemistry demonstrations. These reached about 2,000 people. The largest event was held at Cincinnati Museum Center on Oct. 22 and 23 and featured an appearance by Millie Mole.

The Upper Ohio Valley Section held a special exhibit on Oct. 23 at the Grand Central Mall in Vienna, W.Va., which featured a health-themed booth, demonstrations, and hands-on activities. ACS student affiliates and faculty from Marietta College and Washington State Community College--both in Marietta--volunteered at the event.

Volunteers from the Toledo Section traveled to the Toledo Zoo to provide hands-on activities, informational displays, and presentations of products by local companies.

Other Midwestern states also had strong showings. The Joliet Section, in Illinois, planned a large number of activities targeting students, teachers, chemists, and the general public. These activities included classroom chemistry demonstrations at seven area schools; plant tours; a wellness fair; a workshop for state teachers; and various "You Be the Chemist" challenges, including local school contests and the Illinois Valley regional championship.

The Illinois-Iowa Section held a health fair for fourth through seventh graders at Muscatine Community College on Oct. 16; hands-on activities for elementary school students at St. Ambrose University, Davenport, Iowa, on Oct. 17; and a chemical demonstration show and poster contest at the Family Museum of Arts & Sciences, in Bettendorf, Iowa, on Oct. 23. The section also organized demonstrations at the Augustana College Science Building, with help from the college's student affiliate chapter, on Oct. 17.

Poster contests, demonstrations, health education, book readings, hands-on experiments, and a sidewalk periodic table were part of the Indiana Section's Nov. 6 event at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis. The event was preceded by a week of advertisements in the Indianapolis Star and chemistry demonstrations at the Children's Museums on Nov. 4 and 5 by Eli Lilly's Chemistry Is a Blast program.

The Southern Indiana Section partnered with the chemistry department of Indiana University, Bloomington, for an annual NCW open house. Activities included a haunted laboratory, a poster contest, a chemistry magic show, henna tattoos and face painting, demonstrations of medical equipment, and a variety of hands-on experiments.

The Indiana-Kentucky Border Section took advantage of good weather to move some of its activities outside at the Washington Square Mall, Evansville, Ind., on Oct. 23. General Electric and the University of Southern Indiana cosponsored the event, which featured a chemistry competition and other hands-on activities. The Kansas City Section held a demonstration of chemistry-related aspects of health and wellness on Oct. 25 at Magg Center Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City, a poster contest for nearly 120 area grade schools, and a Boy Scout patch program. And the LaCrosse-Winona Section held its annual "Chemistry Night," which consisted of demonstrations and hands-on activities, for high schoolers at Saint Mary's University of Minnesota on Oct. 28.

The Milwaukee Section held 45-minute demonstrations at the Discovery World museum on Oct. 22. More than 300 elementary and middle school students saw the health-related experiments, put on by volunteers from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and the University of Wisconsin, Washington County. The section also sponsored a large NCW poster contest, with nearly 350 entries.

The Western Michigan Section attracted more than 600 people to Westshore Mall in Holland, Mich., on Oct. 16. About 110 volunteers staffed chemistry activities, organized a health and wellness poster contest, and performed 45-minute demonstrations.

After beginning a poster contest on Oct. 1, the Midland Section displayed posters and worked with advanced-placement chemistry students to hold demonstrations at the Tanger Outlet Mall's Health & Wellness Fair. The National City Bank in West Branch, Mich., featured tours, health exhibits, activities, and poster and writing contests during NCW. On Oct. 23, Delta College hosted Sci-Fest, which featured exhibits on dental health, fitness, germs, environmental health, nursing, cancer, and other health topics, as well as a health walk. The Mid-Michigan Technician Group partnered with Dow Corning and Dow Chemical to help staff the event.

The Michigan State University Section held its 18th annual "Chemistry Day" on Oct. 23 at Impression 5 Science Center, in Lansing. More than 2,500 visitors, including about 900 Boy and Girl Scouts, attended the event, which featured 40 tables of hands-on activities put on by students from MSU's department of chemistry, school of nursing, and school of human medicine, as well as the University of Michigan's American Student Dental Association Chapter.

ACS efforts at the national level were not the only ones to receive official recognition. Activities by Tennessee local sections caught the state and local government's eye, as NCW received official proclamations from both Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen and Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam.

In addition to newspaper and radio coverage of the section's events, the East Tennessee Section hosted a "Magic of Chemistry" show at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, on Oct. 21, and health and wellness hands-on activities at the American Museum of Science & Energy on Oct. 17–23.


The Northeast Tennessee Section held its 14th annual "Celebration of Chemistry for Fourth Graders" on Oct. 19 and 20 at Eastman Chemical's Toy F. Reid Employee Center. An estimated 2,000 attendees saw demonstrations and participated in hands-on health activities conveying the role of chemistry in everyday life.

And former ACS president Helen M. Free visited West End Middle School and the Adventure Science Center on behalf of the Nashville Section.

(left) Visitors at the University of Northern Colorado museum event experimented with frozen flowers. (right) The Louisiana Section's "Super Science Saturday" featured a chemistry magic show.
(left) Visitors at the University of Northern Colorado museum event experimented with frozen flowers. (right) The Louisiana Section's "Super Science Saturday" featured a chemistry magic show.

MEMBERS OF the Kentucky Lake Section also helped secure Gov. Bredesen's proclamation. In addition, the section held a demonstration program at its October meeting, conducted visits to area schools, and sponsored a free health fair.

The Lexington Section set up hands-on activities related to health and wellness, including experiments relating to sunscreen and sugar content in colas, at Victorian Square Shopping Center, in Lexington, Ky., on Oct. 23.

A number of Texas sections had strong programs. The South Texas Section held chemical demonstrations and provided hands-on activities for children at the Corpus Christi Museum of Science & History. Students from the Corpus Christi and Kingsville campuses of Texas A&M University volunteered with industrial chemists to help museum visitors make slime and test unknown liquids for the presence of glucose.

The Texas A&M Local Section held its 17th annual Chemistry Open House & Science Exploration Gallery, including three presentations of the "Chemistry Road Show," on Oct. 30 at the university's department of chemistry. More than 800 participants turned up for the popular science demonstrations, hands-on and computer activities, guided lab tours, and other events.

The Greater Houston Section held a health and wellness learning fair on Oct. 23 on the campus of the University of St. Thomas, with demonstrations by college students, a sugar-cube-counting booth, a computerized nutrition display, an odor analyzer, and a poster contest. Student affiliates from St. Thomas and the University of Houston participated, as did members of the Westhollow Technology Center Technology Affiliate Group.

The Brazosport Section sent volunteers to nearly 100 fifth-grade classrooms for demonstrations and activities; it also hosted a poster contest and declared winners at the Lake Jackson Historical Museum on Oct. 23, following up with a science demonstration.

The nearby Louisiana Section sponsored "Super Science Saturday" on Oct. 16 at the Louisiana Children's Museum in New Orleans. Two magic shows and a "Who Wants To Be a Mole-ionnaire" game show, along with a number of hands-on activities, were overseen by 17 local organizations, including area colleges, high schools, public service institutions, and Girl Scout troops.

The Baton Rouge Section recruited hundreds of volunteers for its slate of activities: numerous classroom visits; a display at a local teacher's workshop; and the main event, "Super Science Saturday," at Louisiana State University Field House, in Baton Rouge, where volunteers from 11 organizations reached about 1,300 people through a blood drive, a display of nonpolluting vehicles, and hands-on demonstrations.

Much of the NCW effort around the country was underpinned by strong participation from the society's student affiliate members and other university volunteers. For example, the Tuskegee University Student Affiliate Chapter took an active role in Auburn Section events by placing an NCW display in the school's Armstrong Hall. On Oct. 21, the chapter celebrated Mole Day with a contest and donated collected hand sanitizers and tissues to Lewis Adams Early Childhood Center; the chapter also visited Tuskegee Public School to demonstrate experiments about sugar intake.

(left) "Slime!" was a big draw at the California Section's Family Science Night in Oakland. (right) The Eastern New York Section held demonstrations of urinalysis strips.
(left) "Slime!" was a big draw at the California Section's Family Science Night in Oakland. (right) The Eastern New York Section held demonstrations of urinalysis strips.

STUDENT affiliates from Mercer University and Georgia College & State University each held a week of events as part of the Middle Georgia Section's activities. Events included a fund-raiser, magic shows, demonstrations, a health fair, a walkathon, a Mole Day mall celebration, and school visits.

The Alabama Section distributed NCW materials and experiments to area high schools through the Science in Motion program; student affiliates from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and Samford University printed NCW posters and organized the section meeting, which also featured a guided tour and talks about the Samford Sciencenter conservatory.

Volunteers from the Oklahoma Section and chemistry students from Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, held a demonstration show at Shawnee Mall on Oct. 30. In addition to urinalysis and slime experiments, the show featured demonstrations on the catalytic decomposition of hydrogen peroxide and simulations of tooth decay.

Volunteers from the Salt Lake Section, the Salt Lake Community College Student Affiliate Chapter, and the University of Utah held hands-on science demonstrations on Oct. 16 at the main branch of the Salt Lake City Public Library.

On Oct. 19 and 21, the Southern Nevada Section presented two-hour chemical demonstration shows at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus for elementary school students, their teachers, and other interested onlookers; demonstrators included UNLV faculty, members of the UNLV Student Affiliate Chapter, and chemists from the Environmental Protection Agency. On Oct. 22, UNLV student affiliates also hosted an NCW program for students and teachers of Del Sol High School.

The University of Northern Colorado Student Affiliate Chapter held demonstrations at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, including glitter slime, hand-washing, density, urinalysis, blood glucose testing, and liquid nitrogen activities. The chapter also held a trivia contest for the university's chemistry department, a Mole Day candy-guessing contest, and a mole design contest for student affiliates.

Students from the Evergreen State College Student Affiliate Chapter helped the Puget Sound Section put on health demonstrations for schoolchildren at the Timberland Regional Library, Olympia, Wash., on Oct. 19 and the college's department of chemistry on Oct. 20.

The Inland Northwest Section celebrated Mole Day with a community event at the Gonzaga University campus, with help from the Gonzaga and Eastern Washington University Student Affiliate Chapters. Visitors used a molecular-model-building station, a coloring station, and a tattoo table; poster topics included fluoride in drinking water, artificial sweeteners, diet pills, and other health-related issues.

The nearby Washington-Idaho Border Section held a hands-on demonstration at Palouse Discovery Science Center in Pullman, Wash., on Oct. 16 with Washington State University and University of Idaho student affiliates. The section's celebrations also included a lecture titled "A Periodic Table of the Moles: Building Bridges to Native American Students" on Oct. 19 and a mini-symposium titled "Use of Native Plants as Medicines" on Oct. 21, both at the University of Idaho; various events and demonstrations at the Tutxinmepu Powwow on Oct. 22 and 23; and a Mole Day demo on Oct. 23 by the University of Idaho chemistry club.

At Stanford University, the Santa Clara Section hosted an interactive exhibit at the Sally Ride Science Festival on Oct. 18. More than 500 children and their families visited the booth, which featured "Chemistry Wheel of Fortune," "Name that Molecule," and "Guess How Many Sugar Molecules Are in the Jar" games, as well as Clinistix and Multistix demonstrations. And the California Section held its traditional "Family Science Night" event at Elmhurst Middle School, Oakland, on Oct. 18 with help from University of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University students. More than 800 visitors saw a music and chemistry magic show or took part in nearly a dozen hands-on activities and a community health fair.

On the opposite coast, the New England states also had extensive programs supporting NCW. The Northern New York Section held a "Fun with Chemistry" workshop at St. Mary's School, Canton, N.Y., and students from St. Lawrence University held science demonstrations at a number of area schools.

In addition to distributing ACS brochures on health and other topics in the area, the New York Section organized chemistry and wellness fairs at area high schools and held a talk titled "Careers at the Border Between Chemistry and Medicine" at Emerson High School and "Microbes Survive, Technologists Connive, and Companies Thrive" at Drew University.

And the Eastern New York Section held its event at the New York State Museum in Albany on Oct. 24. More than 13 companies, universities, or government labs contributed and more than 100 volunteers staffed slime, Silly Putty, sunscreen, and carbohydrate testing activities at the event, which also featured two chemistry magic shows.

The Mid-Hudson Section held its "Chemistry Family Night" on Oct. 21 with support from PepsiCo. The event included health-related activities such as calorimetric testing and anatomy demonstrations.

The Erie Section held a hands-on demonstration show at Millcreek Mall, in Erie, Pa. Volunteers from Allegheny College and Penn State Erie, the Behrend College, helped to show the chemistry behind liquid-crystal forehead thermometers and human mucus.

On Oct. 17, the Northeastern Section, in Massachusetts, held a NCW kick-off event at Wellesley College Science Center, which included health-related activities and demonstrations of glucose meters and dental concepts. Simmons College students then held a Mole Day education program throughout the rest of NCW.

On Oct. 22, in New Jersey, the Princeton Section held its fifth NCW open house at Frick Laboratory on the Princeton University campus. Visitors extracted spinach DNA, characterized fats, studied enzyme activity, isolated iron from cereal, and participated in other activities.

The Santa Clara Valley Section's exhibit featured an NCW "Wheel of Fortune" and molecule guessing games.
The Santa Clara Valley Section's exhibit featured an NCW "Wheel of Fortune" and molecule guessing games.

VOLUNTEERS from Rider University and Mercer County Community College helped the Trenton Section host demonstrations, including experiments with milk of magnesia, fake snow, and glitter slime, for more than 600 area students from 30 classes.


The Delaware Section held library programs, school demonstrations, and a health and wellness poster contest. In addition, it held its ninth annual science teacher appreciation night on Oct. 5 at the area AstraZeneca facility; two chemistry programs for kids, one at St. Mark's High School, Wilmington, Del., on Oct. 16, and the other at Welsey College, Dover, Del., on Dec. 4; and a Mole Day open house at Newark Charter School on Oct. 23.

ACS staff members have already begun preliminary planning for the next NCW, which will take place from Oct. 16 to 22, 2005, by identifying ACS products in the society store that match the theme "The Joy of Toys." They are also planning Chemists Celebrate Earth Day, which will take place on April 22, 2005, with a theme of "Air: Here, There, Everywhere." In 2006, NCW will take place from Oct. 22 to 28 and will have a theme revolving around chemistry in the home.


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