Issue Date: April 16, 2007
Last month, during the ACS national meeting in Chicago, more than 100 elementary- and middle-school-aged children packed into a room at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum to do hands-on experiments in green chemistry. In one activity, kids poured muddy water through compacted sand and silt and watched the water come out sparkling clean. In another activity, kids learned how different types of plastics are separated during the recycling process.
The event is one of several public outreach programs organized annually by the ACS Committee on Community Activities and supported by the Education Division.
CCA's mission, according to its strategic plan, is to "provide community-based programs and activities to improve the public's recognition and appreciation of the contributions of chemistry."
One of the committee's most successful programs is National Chemistry Week (NCW), which takes place annually during the fourth week of October. This year, NCW is celebrating its 20th anniversary. The theme, generated by CCA's theme team, is "The Many Faces of Chemistry," and it will emphasize chemists and their careers.
"This is going to be a very busy year," says committee Chair Ingrid Montes, who is also a professor of organic chemistry at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras. She says plans are under way to expand the celebration to regional meetings, student affiliates, and ACS Chemistry Clubs.
CCA sponsors Chemists Celebrate Earth Day (CCED), an environmental awareness campaign held annually on April 22, and assists with the Salutes to Excellence volunteer-recognition program. It also cosponsors the ChemLuminary Awards, presented annually during the ACS fall national meeting. In addition, the committee publishes two newsletters a year.
The committee works closely with the ACS Office of Community Activities on these programs and continues to seek opportunities for partnerships within and outside ACS.
CCA began as a task force in 1987. It was organized informally to hear plans for National Chemistry Day. As National Chemistry Day turned into National Chemistry Week in 1989, the task force's role also expanded. Over the next 15 years, the task force evolved into a very active group, working with ACS staff in planning for NCW. In addition to NCW planning, the task force helped plan and implement other public outreach activities and programs, such as CCED.
In recognition of the task force's growing role in the society and in the community, the ACS Board in 2003 made the task force into a committee. Last fall, during the national meeting in San Francisco, the board approved the committee's request to change its status from an Other Council Committee to a Joint Board-Council Committee.
The new status gives CCA more visibility within the society and opens opportunities for partnerships with other ACS committees, says staff liaison Judith Jankowski. The change in status also helps the committee diversify ethnically and geographically and recruit members who have a variety of outreach experiences, Jankowski says.
CCA is organized into three subcommittees. The Program Support & Promotion Subcommittee provides direction for NCW and CCED. The Volunteer Engagement & Recognition Subcommittee develops ways to recruit, retain, and recognize volunteers through such efforts as encouraging interaction between ACS local sections and student affiliates chapters and improving awareness of the nomination process for the ChemLuminary Awards for NCW. Finally, the Evaluation & Technology Subcommittee assesses the effectiveness of CCA's programs and explores alternative technologies, such as podcasts and blogs, to enhance member awareness and participation.
Montes says some of her goals this year are to coordinate an outstanding NCW anniversary celebration, provide materials and resources to coordinators earlier than in previous years, incorporate more Web and alternative technologies into the programs, increase collaborations with other ACS committees and divisions, and do more outreach in minority communities.
During the community outreach event in Chicago, Montes noticed Boy Scouts who were giddy with excitement as they blew bubbles. She couldn't resist getting in on the fun; after all, participation is the best way to show the community that you care.-Linda Wang
- Chemical & Engineering News
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