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Local sections host National Chemistry Week 2023 events

Volunteers engaged the public in hands-on activities and demonstrations during a weeklong outreach campaign

by Nina Notman, special to C&EN
December 17, 2023 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 101, Issue 41


From Oct. 15 to 21, American Chemical Society members from 130 local sections, two international chemical sciences chapters, and a number of student chapters celebrated National Chemistry Week 2023 (NCW 2023) by educating the public about chemistry’s role in health and medicine.

This year’s theme was “The Healing Power of Chemistry.” Thousands of people participated in outreach events in K–12 schools, universities, malls, museums, libraries, parks, and other public spaces.

“National Chemistry Week this year was the perfect opportunity to emphasize the connection between chemistry and good health all over the world,” Lori Stepan, chair of the ACS Committee on Community Activities, states in an email. “This is especially important because these young people exploring chemistry today may become doctors, nurses, and researchers in the future.”

Free ACS resources for NCW 2023 included the magazine Celebrating Chemistry. During this year’s NCW events, ACS distributed 92,500 print copies in English and 12,500 in Spanish. ACS also sponsored an illustrated poem contest for K–12 students (see box on page 40).

The following are highlights of the NCW 2023 events:

TheCalifornia Section organized a booth at the Solano Avenue Stroll in Berkeley and Albany, where visitors made ultraviolet-detecting bead bracelets and explored the effect of breath on a red cabbage pH indicator. The section also attended two school science festivals.

The California State University, Stanislaus, Student Chapter, also called the Warriors Chemistry Club, organized a seminar about the materials involved in dentistry.

The Carolina-Piedmont Section hosted a hands-on event for 15 attendees aged 8–12 at the Fort Mill Public Library. Visitors explored how milk of magnesia reduces stomach acid, how X-rays produce images, and how fluoride protects teeth.

The Central Arkansas Local Section ran a walk-by table at the Creep ’N Crawl 5K run at Two Rivers Park in Little Rock. Visitors investigated how milk of magnesia reduces stomach acid and made slime and marbled paper.

The Central Ohio Valley Section held a hands-on chemistry event at the Heritage Farm’s Fall Festival. Children explored how milk of magnesia reduces stomach acid and used vinegar–baking soda bottle rockets to launch corks.

An adult and child in goggles hold a plastic bottle while standing in a field.
Credit: Gary Anderson
Volunteers from the Central Ohio Valley Section help children launch corks powered by mixing baking soda and vinegar in bottles to produce carbon dioxide at Heritage Farm's Fall Festival.

The Central Wisconsin Local Section conducted a make-and-take lotion activity for 120 attendees at the University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point Family Day.

The Chicago Section created K–12 teacher kits with activities, materials, and videos. It also hosted a family day with 13 hands-on activity stations.

Nearly 70 volunteers from the Cincinnati Section ran hands-on chemistry demonstrations for 500 children and 200 adults in 28 public libraries.

New York’s Corning Section organized an event at Corning–Painted Post Middle School, where 16 scientists ran hands-on activities in 16 classrooms.

A child in safety goggles holds some red slime.
Credit: Priscilla LaFountain
Children participate in a number of hands-on activities, including making blood-colored slime, at an event organized by the Eastern New York Section at the Colonie Center in Albany, New York.

The East Tennessee Section hosted a number of events, including a chemistry show at the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus and an academic showcase at the university’s homecoming football game.

The Eastern New York Section held an event at the Colonie Center mall in Albany, where 70 volunteers ran hands-on activities. More than 230 children made blood-colored slime and learned about soap, hand sanitizer, penicillin, and neutralizing stomach acid.

Pennsylvania’s Erie Local Section coordinated a hands-on event with nine demonstrations for children at a local shopping mall.

Vermont’s Green Mountain Local Section organized an all-day event with hands-on activities and a chemistry magic show at the Echo, Leahy Center for Lake Champlain.

Events hosted by Virginia’s Hampton Roads Local Section included a science movie night at Old Dominion University’s planetarium, a Younger Chemists Committee meetup at a local brewery, and a science field trip to the Mariners’ Museum.

Illinois’s Joliet Section created a haunted lab event for local Girl Scout groups.

The Mark Twain Local Section of Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri conducted chemical demonstrations and hands-on activities at Quincy University.

The Maryland Section ran 16 hands-on programs in libraries in six counties. Participants built models of glucose and fructose, weighed sugar cube equivalents of common drinks and foods, and observed the effect of vinegar on starch digestion.

The Michigan State University Local Section hosted a Chemistry Day event with hands-on activities and demonstrations in partnership with the Impression 5 Science Center.

New York’s Mid-Hudson Section worked with local institutions and student sections to organize a Kilomole Day Breakfast, provide materials for Kids Chemistry Night at SUNY Orange, and sponsor Vassar College’s Chemistry College Bowl.

A young person in safety glasses reaches toward a large bubble on the surface of a container.
Credit: Pat Kesavan
Volunteers from the Midland College Student Chapter conduct several hands-on activities in a local mall, including making large bubbles using dry ice and dish soap.

Texas’s Midland College Student Chapter, also called the Midland College Chemistry Club, held a hands-on event at a local mall, where visitors participated in experiments including using a red cabbage indicator to explore how milk of magnesia neutralizes stomach acid.

Marie Migaud of Alabama’s Mobile Local Section talked to over 200 high school and middle school students and teachers on where we find chemistry in health and health care.

Connecticut’s New Haven Section organized two hands-on science events for approximately 200 students in grades 5–8. Participants extracted DNA from strawberries and explored how milk of magnesia reduces stomach acid.

The New York Local Section and PepsiCo hosted an event with demonstrations at the New York Hall of Science.

The Nigeria International Chemical Sciences Chapter held a 3 h virtual event that included two invited talks and flash presentations from all the Nigerian student chapters.

The North Jersey Section partnered with the Liberty Science Center to run demonstrations and hands-on activities at an event attended by more than 2,000 children.

Two children wearing safety glasses display plastic bags filled with colored slime.
Credit: Sandra Keyser
Children attend a "Healing Power of Chemistry"–themed event at the Liberty Science Center supported by the North Jersey Section.

Dana M. Barry of the Northern New York Local Section helped students in grades 3–6 at the St. Catherine of Siena Academy design and create bandages using various tapes and paddings. She also distributed ACS resources to other local schools.

Approximately 80 volunteers from the Northern Oklahoma Local Section helped nearly 2,000 grade 4 and 5 students at 17 local schools explore how milk of magnesia reduces stomach acid.

The Nova Southeastern University Student Chapter hosted a week’s worth of lunchtime activities that included lectures, a nature walk in a medicinal garden, and a self-care day in which participants made sugar-and-oatmeal facial masks and scrubs.

The Pensacola Section partnered with the University of West Florida Chemistry Club to host a tie-dye T-shirt event for students.

More than 300 volunteers from the Puerto Rico Section supported San Juan’s annual Festival de Química. Approximately 15,000 attendees visited 31 outdoor activity stations, a science exposition, and two chemistry shows.

Volunteers sitting behind a table covered with American Chemical Society resources talk to two visitors.
Credit: Moraima Colon
Volunteers from the Puerto Rico Section hand out American Chemical Society swag at San Juan’s Festival de Química, an annual event that engages around 15,000 attendees in chemistry activities.

The Puget Sound Section ran four activities at a local library event that was attended by about 20 families. It also organized an event for approximately 60 students at Olympia, Washington’s Hands On Children’s Museum.

The Silicon Valley Local Section hosted 300 attendees at four hands-on events: at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in San Jose, California; Salinas Community Science Workshop; Ronald McDonald House in Palo Alto; and the Redwood City Public Library.

A woman in goggles holds a tube that is attached to a large container at one end and has a large bubble at the other end.
Credit: Jigisha Shah
A volunteer at a hands-on National Chemistry Week event hosted by the Silicon Valley Local Section and local universities combines dry ice and dish soap to make bubbles.

The South Florida Section organized a number of events, including two at local science museums. Participants made tea bags and explored the hydrophobic effects of barrier creams.

The Southwest Georgia Section sponsored a Science Saturday event at the Hugh C. Bailey Science Center at Valdosta State University with 20 hands-on activities and demonstrations for K–12 students.

The Saint Joseph Valley Local Section of Indiana and Michigan hosted hands-on activity booths at the Science Spooktacular community event at the St. Joseph County 4-H fairgrounds.

Florida’s Tampa Bay Section arranged a booth where visitors could explore milk of magnesia’s ability to reduce stomach acid in the Museum of Science and Industry.

Eight people stand behind a table with an American Chemical Society National Chemistry Week banner on it.
Credit: Christian Tang
Volunteers from the Tampa Bay Section host a booth at the Museum of Science and Industry to guide visitors to explore how milk of magnesia lowers the acidity of vinegar using red cabbage juice as the pH indicator.

The University of Arizona Chemistry Club helped host a demonstration show for students at the university.

The Upper Ohio Valley Local Section performed two chemical magic shows for local elementary school students and their families.

NCW 2024 will take place Oct. 20–26 with the theme “Picture-Perfect Chemistry.” Information on how to get involved can be found at

NCW 2023 National Illustrated Poem Contest Winners

As part of the National Chemistry Week 2023 celebrations, local sections hosted illustrated poem contests with K–12 students, who were invited to design entries around the theme “The Healing Power of Chemistry.” This year, 29 local sections submitted poems that won their local competitions to the national illustrated poem contest. The ACS Committee on Community Activities and the ACS Office of Science Outreach have announced this year’s national winners.

K–2nd grade

First place: Luke K., Princeton Section

A poem about antihistamines is accompanied by illustrations including a leaf, a flower, a medicine bottle, and an epinephrine injection pen.
Credit: Luke K./Princeton Section

Second place: Aarjav J., Southwest Georgia Section

A poem about visiting a pharmacy is accompanied by a picture of a child and an adult in a parking lot walking toward a building with a pharmacy sign.
Credit: Aarjav J./Southwest Georgia Section

3rd–5th grade

First place: Rhea U., Eastern New York Section

A poem about how chemistry protects and heals the body is accompanied by an illustration of a character dressed as a superhero and holding a shield that reads “Antibiotics and Vaccines.”
Credit: Rhea U./Eastern New York Section

Second place: Jose T., Indiana Local Section

A poem titled “My Mighty Immune System” is accompanied by illustrations including characters dressed as knights and holding shields.
Credit: Jose T./Indiana Local Section

6th–8th grade

First place: Shreyas K., Silicon Valley Local Section

A poem about the vitamins in food is accompanied by illustrations including various fruits, the sun, and bones.
Credit: Shreyas K./Silicon Valley Section

Second place: Kahiwaa L., Hawai’i Local Section

A poem titled “Health Safety” is accompanied by an illustration of a character shaped like an anatomical heart.
Credit: Kahiwaa L./Hawaiʻi Local Section

9th–12th grade

First place: Simran U., Eastern New York Section

A poem about medication and vaccines is accompanied by illustrations that depict quantum dots, vaccination, and sutures.
Credit: Simran U./Eastern New York Section

Second place: Jolene C., New York Local Section, and Raima S., Philadelphia Local Section

A poem about next-generation bandages is accompanied by an illustration of chemical structures, adhesive bandages, and a fabric bandage roll.
Credit: Raima S./Philadelphia Local Section
A poem about drugs encapsulated in nanoparticles is accompanied by an illustration of encapsulated drugs and red blood cells inside a blood vessel heading toward a cancerous tumor.
Credit: Jolene C./New York Local Section

Nina Notman is a freelance writer based in Salisbury, England.


This story was updated on Dec. 18, 2023 to correct the location of the images associated with the NCW 2023 National Illustrated Poem Contest 3-5th grade winner, Rhea U., and 9-12th grade winner, Simran U.


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