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. 

    A Silicate Garden

    Kids, have you discovered the colorful rocks that grow into underwater stalagmites yet? The ingredients for making your own silicate or crystal garden are a bit too exotic for you to find around the house or in the grocery store. Your best bet is to go to your favorite toy store and look for a product from Craft House called “Magic Rocks”.

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

    Follow the instructions very carefully. In fact, they say that an adult partner is needed if you are not 10 years old yet. We’ll give you a bit more of a scientific explanation here of what you’ll observe happening. You’ll first place the “magic rocks” into the bottom of a container and then pour a “magic solution” over them. The rocks are actually chunks of chemicals such as iron chloride (FeCl3), cobalt chloride (CoCl2), copper sulfate (CuSO4), manganese sulfate (MnSO4), and iron sulfate (Fe3(SO4)2). Chemists call compounds like these transition metal salts. They are indeed salts but they are not edible so don’t even think about it! The colors of these particular salts are, respectively, yellow, purple, blue, pale pink, and green. There might be different salts, and therefore different colors, in your set. These are just examples. The solution is sodium silicate, also sometimes called “water glass”. What you are making is a structural precipitate and they are quite complex. The iron chloride salt, for example, changes by chemical reaction with the sodium silicate to a mixture of iron silicates and iron hydroxide. This mixture is gel-like. But the gels will change their texture to become more crystalline and brittle after a while.

    An air bubble usually caps the slender shoots that form at first, so look carefully. They move jerkily, from one side to another. An elastic gel-like membrane is actually forming and breaking here.

    If your set doesn’t seem to work very well it might mean that the sodium silicate solution has degraded a little bit, especially if the set is old. Most transition metal salts shouldn’t be affected by time, though.


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



    • T. H. Hazlehurst, J. Chem. Ed. 1941, p. 286.
    • B. Z. Shakhashiri, “Chemical Demos: A Handbook for Teachers of Chemistry”, 1983, Vol. 3, p. 379.