Volume 88 Issue 18 | pp. 45-46
Issue Date: May 3, 2010

Reach Out In Advance Of The International Year Of Chemistry

Chemists can gear up for the celebration by getting involved in upcoming outreach activities
Department: ACS News | Collection: IYC 2011
Keywords: Outreach, Volunteer, Chemistry Ambassadors
Get Involved
Visiting a classroom is just one way chemists can participate in outreach.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN
Get Involved
Visiting a classroom is just one way chemists can participate in outreach.
Credit: Linda Wang/C&EN

The International Year of Chemistry will be a yearlong worldwide celebration in 2011, but ACS members don't need to wait until then to communicate positive messages about chemistry and science.

"This year, 2010, is an excellent time for members to try out some outreach activities," says Nancy Blount, assistant director for society communications in the ACS Office of Public Affairs. "If they've never gotten involved in outreach before, this will give them an opportunity to test the waters. I think they'll find out that it's a lot easier than they might think it is, and it's really rewarding and satisfying to make a contribution."

Blount points out that in addition to the familiar events that ACS members look forward to each year, such as Chemists Celebrate Earth Day and National Chemistry Week, several new volunteer opportunities are available this year, including National Lab Day and the USA Science & Engineering Festival.

"For people who are already involved in outreach, these are some other things they can do to help," says Glenn S. Ruskin, director of the ACS Office of Public Affairs. "For those who aren't doing anything yet but have been thinking about it, this will help them generate some ideas."

The following list includes upcoming events, dates, and information on how volunteers can get involved:

National Lab Day (nationallabday.org) will be celebrated on May 12. The nationwide science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiative was established last fall by President Barack Obama as part of the "Educate to Innovate" campaign that seeks to improve the participation and performance of America's students in STEM fields. Through the event's website, volunteers are matched with educators on specific projects. ACS is cosponsoring the event with the National Science Teachers Association.

"This is a fabulous way to make a connection with a teacher in your own community," says Blount. The ACS Office of Public Affairs is providing a limited number of Kids & Chemistry kits to help volunteers conduct hands-on activities with groups of up to 32 students. To obtain a free kit, visit www.acs.org/labdaygiveaway.

The inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival (usasciencefestival.org) will take place on Oct. 10–24 and conclude with an expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 23–24. The festival will consist of two weeks of special events, including school visits and science open houses. Diane Bunce, a professor of chemistry at Catholic University of America and winner of the 2001 Helen M. Free Award for Public Outreach, will be among the "Nifty Fifty," a group of professionals who will give career talks at middle and high schools around the area.

More than 750 interactive exhibits in various scientific disciplines are planned for the expo, and ACS will have three booths. Along with hands-on activities, visitors to the ACS booths will be able to watch a reenactment of chemist Joseph Priestley's 18th-century experiments.

Washington isn't the only site for USA Science & Engineering Festival activities. Universities, student science clubs, national laboratories, and other organizations are hosting satellite events across the country. "We'd encourage ACS local sections to think about how they could replicate this national event on the local level by holding mini Science & Engineering Festivals in their communities at schools, local fairs, and other venues," Ruskin says.

National Chemistry Week (www.acs.org/ncw) will take place on Oct. 17–23. This year's theme, "Behind the Scenes with Chemistry," will showcase the science in television, movies, and literature. ACS offers a variety of activities to celebrate NCW 2010 including a national K–12 poster contest, science cafes, movie screenings, and other activities.

Volunteers are encouraged to get in touch with their ACS local sections to find out what events will be taking place in their communities.

The International Year of Chemistry 2011 (chemistry2011.org) will kick off with an opening event in Paris on Jan. 27–28, 2011. ACS, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and the American Chemistry Council are partnering to coordinate a multiday event in Philadelphia in early February in hopes of inspiring similar celebrations in cities across the U.S.

ACS will provide its local sections with resources to host activities throughout the year based on the quarterly themes of environment, energy, materials, and health. The society is also sponsoring "365: Chemistry for Life," where visitors to the ACS website www.acs.org/iyc2011 can submit ideas for a favorite element, compound, discovery, process, chemist, or chemistry innovation. One of these submissions will be featured each day in 2011. The deadline for nominations is June 30, 2010.

ACS is also making downloadable tool kits available to its technical divisions, local sections, committees, chemistry clubs, ACS Fellows, and ACS Chemistry Ambassadors who are interested in helping out. For more information, visit www.acs.org/iyc2011.

Blount encourages chemists to visit the ACS Chemistry Ambassadors website (www.acs.org/chemistryambassadors) to learn more about how to get involved through ACS in these and other outreach events. "Whether you have a little bit of time or a lot, there are ideas to fit any schedule," she says. Numerous opportunities also exist to volunteer through ACS local sections or divisions (www.acs.org/getinvolved).

"We know our members care about the public understanding of science, and we want to make it easier for them to volunteer," says Blount. "We can do as much as possible at the national level of ACS to try to influence public understanding and public appreciation of chemistry, but so much more could be done if our members would be willing to be a human face and a human voice of chemistry."

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