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. 

    Chemistry & Art - Frescoes

    Kids, a fun event called National Chemistry Week will take place this year Nov. 4-10, 2001. Check other articles in the Bulletin and the Chicago Section web page for details in the Chicago area. The theme this year is "Celebrating Chemistry & Art". One of the related activities suggested on the American Chemical Society's website will be highlighted here.

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

    Fresco means "fresh" in Italian. Paintings done on wet plaster are called frescoes because the plaster is fresh; this means that the plaster is still wet when the artist paints on it. One of the most famous frescoes ever painted took four years and was finished in 1512 by Michelangelo. It was painted 70 feet above the ground on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, Italy. Here we'll learn the technique that Michelangelo and his helpers used to make this work of art.

    The materials you will need are: a small disposable plastic dessert plate and plastic cup, a "craft stick" (popsicle stick), plaster of Paris, water, acrylic paints or poster paints, and a paintbrush. The procedure is to put 2 tablespoons (T) of plaster of Paris in a small cup, add 1 T of water, and stir with the craft stick until the mixture is smooth. Pour the wet plaster onto the plastic plate. Smooth the plaster out with the craft stick until it covers the bottom of the plate. Dip the brush into one color of paint and paint the plaster right away. Before the brush is dipped into the paint a second time, rinse the paintbrush well in a cup of rinsewater. (If the brush is not rinsed before being dipped into the paint each time, plaster will get into the paint).

    Is painting on plaster different than painting on paper? Experiment with the interesting designs that can be made as the paint and paintbrush are dragged through wet plaster. What happens to the surface of the plaster as it begins to harden? Does it become more difficult to paint? When the fresco is completely dry, twist the plate gently. This will loosen the fresco so that it comes out easily.

    So, what is the chemistry here? As the fresco dries, a chemical in the wet plaster called calcium sulfate hydrate combines with water and hardens before all the water can evaporate. Therefore it doesn't shrink, and the fresco can last a very long time. If your fresco is kept safe it will last a long time, too.

    As an additional activity, consider entering the 2001 poster contest called "Celebrating Chemistry: Then and Now". Judging categories are grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. Call the ACS Office of Community Activities at 1-800-227-5558, ext. 6097 for details.


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    November 2001


    References: Go to the website for general details, and to the "activities and articles" section for this activity. We also used for this column.