Reaching the Community with Chemistry – A CIG Grant in Action

The ACS Undergraduate Programs Office offers two grants to help your chapter reach the community: the Community Interactions Grant and the Innovative Activities Grant. Both of these grants are due March 21, so if you’re interested, apply now!

Below is an account of what one school, Texas Christian University, did with their Community Interactions Grant, by Erica Zimmerman, TCU Chemistry Club Outreach Officer.

In the spring of 2011, Sandi Dang, President of the Texas Christian University Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society, had a vision for the ACS Dallas – Fort Worth area to work together to foster the love of chemistry among their local community. The result was a week-long set of hands on activities at the Fort Worth History and Science Museum (FWHSM). That event motivated the chapter to expand its program in 2012 by inviting local elementary schools to visit the TCU campus!

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The 2011 participants at the FWHSM Week of Chemistry from University of Texas at Dallas, Southern Methodist University, University of Dallas, Texas Women’s University, Texas Wesleyan University, Dallas Baptist University, University of North Texas and Texas Christian University.

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Happy kids eating ice cream made using freezing point modification techniques! They were always so impressed it just took milk and some sugar to make ice cream!

In order to serve the Dallas/Fort Worth community, the TCU Chemistry Club created a program called “College Scientist for the Day,” which was funded by an ACS Community Interaction Grant. The goal of this program was to introduce kids to higher education in order to show them what they could achieve upon advancing their education. For many of the students, it was their first time on a college campus, and they were often in awe of the sheer size of the university. Many of the kids were excited at the idea of living at school, away from parents, and eating spaghetti every day, if they wanted.

TCU “College Scientist for a Day” starts when students from local elementary schools arrive at the campus and are greeted by TCU faculty and Chemistry Club Members. Activities begin with a “magic show” by faculty and students. The magic show includes eating a candle made of apple, a dissolving snake race, and the crowd-pleasing Super Frog Toothpaste (you may know it as Elephant’s Toothpaste).

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Eating a candle: A corer is used to obtain a cylinder of apple, and a sliver of almond is inserted in the top to act as a wick. Light the almond, and talk about candles and making observations. State that not everything you see is true, and then eat the candle.  Explain that scientists perform experiments in order to gather observations about the world.  We are constantly revising what we know based on what we observe.

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Dissolving snake race: Make a 3-foot snake and a 6-foot snake out of packing peanuts. Fill a 400-mL beaker half way with water, and another with acetone. Give a demo leader (who’s okay with losing) the shorter snake and the beaker of water. Give the 6-foot snake and the beaker of acetone to another. Have the observers guess which snake will be easier to dissolve. They will observe that the acetone dissolves the snake, while the water doesn’t.

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Student leader Erika Zimmermann showing that sodium polyacrylate absorbs water and thus none will fall out over Lauren’s head, or so she hopes!

After the magic show, students are divided into groups of about 20 and are escorted up to actual TCU teaching labs. In the labs, students don protective eye wear, and TCU Chemistry Ambassadors guide the students through the ACS Jiggle Gel Kits. The group leaders are TCU undergraduate and graduate students from both the chemistry and biology departments. Two TCU student leaders lead each student group through making polymers.

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Students showing off the slime they made!

After the lab session, the remaining time is spent on a question-and-answer session with TCU students about college. Students talk about what it’s like to be in college, what classes they take, what professors are like, where they live, what they do with their free time, and so much more. Then the chapter takes the students on a mini tour of campus, visiting the Monning Meteorite Museum, the library, administrative buildings, and dorms. The kids leave tired and happy – and hopefully knowing a little more about the world of a college student.

Thanks for sharing, TCU!  And remember, apply for a Community Interactions Grant or an Innovative Activities Grant today! Questions? E-mail undergrad@acs.org or leave a comment.

One thought on “Reaching the Community with Chemistry – A CIG Grant in Action

  1. Pingback: Apply for the Student Chapter Inter-chapter Relations Grant! |

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