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. 

    Salt Crystal Garden

    Kids, in a glass or plastic bowl put 1-3 small pieces of porous materials such as coal, charcoal, brick, tile, cement and/or sponge. On day 1, pour two tablespoons each of water, table salt, and Mrs. Stewart's Bluing (MSB) solution (more on this later) directly over the porous materials. On day 2, sprinkle two more tablespoons of salt over them. On day 3, pour into the bottom of the bowl (not directly on the porous pieces) two tablespoons each of salt, water, and Mrs. Stewart's Bluing, and then add a few drops of food coloring or ink to each piece. By this time a beautiful flower-like growth should have appeared. It may be necessary to add two tablespoons of household ammonia to aid the growth. A free circulation of air is necessary, and these formations will develop better where the air is dry. To keep it growing add more MSB, salt, and water from time to time. It will "bloom" indefinitely into beautiful rosebuds of crystal. Take care to keep the majority of the porous pieces above the liquid level.

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

    How Does It Grow? Table salt (NaCl) can be dissolved in water. As salty water evaporates, some of the salt cannot be retained and crystals of salt form along the edges of a container (precipitation). This recipe calls for large amounts of salt with little liquid so that crystallization takes place quickly. MSB is a colloidal suspension of extremely small particles of blue iron powder (ferric hexacyanoferrate) in water. As the water evaporates, two things happen. The blue particles can no longer be supported and the excess salt cannot stay in solution. The salt crystallization process takes place around the blue particles (which act as "nuclei" or "seeds"). Small amounts of ammonia are added to speed up evaporation.

    The purpose of the porous material is to provide a means for capillary action to carry the liquid containing bluing and salt up from the main source of liquid. This further speeds up evaporation and causes the crystals to form over a larger area than just the rim of the bowl. Additions of bluing and salt on later days should be made by slipping the new liquid in below the rest of the growth. No chemical reaction takes place in this process, just dissolving and recrystallization. But it is fun and pretty, and involves common household chemicals. MSB is nontoxic, biodegradable, non-hazardous, and environmentally friendly.

    Color experts tell us that the brightest of whites has a slight blue hue. Simple bleaching is not enough to make new white clothes acceptable to customers, so manufacturers of sheets, towels, shirts, etc., "blue" them too. After fabric is used, the effects of the bleaches wear off and clothes begin to "yellow" after repeated washings. The fabric is clean but it is not "snow-white". To counteract the yellow, blue must be added. A little dilute MSB in the washing process adds the necessary tint; it does not remove stains or clean, but it optically whitens white fabric. 


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    November 2002


    References: for more information and to order a Salt Crystal Garden Kit.