Outreach and Education Division

    The EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIVISION supports chemistry education at all levels, including K-12, college, and adult/continuing education. It maintains liaisons to the Chicago Public Schools and the American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT). The Division engages the general public in chemistry-related educational activities, participates in ACS activities at the annual Illinois State Fair, and publicizes all events and news-related content. The division oversees the annual Project SEED program for the Section as well as the Project SEED scholarships. The Division also assists public officials and other community bodies concerning chemistry-related matters. The Education and Outreach Division includes the Education, Outreach, Project SEED, and Public Affairs Committees.

    The EDUCATION COMMITTEE provides chemistry-related educational programs and information to learners of all ages and actively engages with educators at the pre-K-12 and college levels. Subcommittees include:

    • AACT Liaison
    • College Education Subcommittee
    • Continuing Education Subcommittee
    • Chicago School Board Liaison
    • K - 12 Education Subcommittee


    The PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE ensures that section members and public officials and bodies are informed of matters where the knowledge and practice of chemistry is of substantial public importance. These matters can include government issues, environmental issues and the social responsibility of chemists. The Public Affairs Committee gives the Public Affairs Award biennially.

    The OUTREACH COMMITTEE engages the general public, educators and children in chemistry-related educational activities and participates in many different types of events around the greater Chicago area.   Subcommittees include:

    • Community Activities Subcommittee
    • Illinois State Fair Subcommittee


    PROJECT SEED COMMITTEE identifies interested low-income and/or minority high school junior and senior students who are interested in participating in a paid summer research experience with  a college or university faculty member.  It supports financial and logistical concerns for the student/ faculty relationships and communicating  relevant program information to the national ACS organization.  The committee is also responsible for distributing Project SEED awards to support the internships. 

    Testing the Texture of Toothpaste

    Kids, chemistry is so common that it can even be found in toothpaste. Chemists have worked hard to come up with the perfect stuff. Read the labels – you'll find out all kinds of interesting things. Here you'll find some information plus learn some tests you can do to compare different brands.

    Please note:  All chemicals and experiments can entail an element of risk, and no experiments should be performed without proper adult supervision.

    What are the active ingredients in toothpaste? There is fluoride of course, either as sodium fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate. Fluoride reverses the process of tooth decay where acids (especially from sugar) dissolve minerals right out of the teeth. There are antibacterial agents such as triclosan to control plaque and antitartar agents to control mineralized plaque. Other, inactive or inert, ingredients are water, detergents (to loosen plaque), binders (keeps solid and liquid ingredients together), humectants (to keep it moist in the tube), flavoring, preservatives (to stop bacteria from growing on the other stuff), and abrasives (for cleaning and polishing).

    Using the tests that follow, you will use inquiry to observe, collect data, and make informed decisions related to consumer choices. You'll need toothpicks, 4-5 brands of toothpaste, a toothbrush, and also a microscope would be great. Prepare a chart listing the brands of toothpaste with sections for texture by "touch", "taste", and "microscope". Rub a bit of each brand between your fingers and note whether it feels smooth, gritty, etc. Then brush your teeth with each brand and record the texture by taste. Next, using a toothpick, smear some toothpaste on a microscope slide, add a drop of water, and put on a coverslip. View the slide in a microscope and draw a picture on your chart of what it looks like. Now compare all the brands for texture, grit, and appearance. Which would you choose, and why? Why is this better than just using water to brush your teeth?

    What do you suppose the abrasives are? This grit is often silica, alumina, calcium carbonate or sodium bicarbonate. Chemists are able to make toothpaste clean, polish, and protect your teeth, plus make it taste good and sit up on your toothbrush, too!


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    June 2000