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. 

    The Nose Knows!

    Kids, everyone knows that a day or two after you blow up a balloon it gets smaller.  This is because some of the air leaks out through microscopically small holes in the balloon’s wall.  In this activity, you will test how the molecules that we can smell from a flavoring extract can move through the rubber wall of a balloon and into our noses.

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

    You will need 3 rubber balloons, a permanent marking pen, 3 disposable 3 oz plastic cups, 3 droppers, and 3 different flavoring extracts (vanilla, peppermint, and orange extracts work well).  Here is what you do.  Use the marking pen to write #1, #2, and #3 on each of your balloons.  Do the same with the three plastic cups, and place a dropper in each one.  Have an adult partner pour a small amount of a different flavoring extract into each of the cups, but don’t let them tell you which is which.  It will be up to you to guess which extract is in which balloon.  Use the dropper to place 10 drops of the extract in cup #1 into balloon #1.  Be sure to place the tip of the dropper as far into the balloon as possible before squeezing the dropper bulb so the extract does not get into the neck of the balloon.  Be careful not to get the extract on your hands, or you will end up smelling your hands instead of what is inside the balloon.  Repeat for extracts #2 and #3.

    After making sure that there is no extract solution on the lip or neck of the balloon, blow them up, tie off the necks, and shake them a few times.  Blow each balloon up to about the same size.  Try to smell the extract inside balloon #1 by holding the balloon about 30 cm (1 foot) in front of your face in one hand, and using your other hand to fan the air around the balloon towards you.  Slowly move the balloon towards your nose until you begin to smell the extract.  Repeat for balloons #2 and #3.  Confirm with your adult partner that your guesses are correct.  For clean-up, hold each balloon over a sink, have the adult partner cut the knot off of the balloon and drain its contents. Pour any excess extracts down the drain, throw away the deflated balloons and any trash, and wash your hands.

    Try these variations.  Compare natural and artificial vanilla flavorings to see if you can tell a difference.  Try inserting cloves or pieces of garlic, nutmeg or onion inside of balloons to see if their scents will pass through the rubber membrane of the balloon. Try substituting snack-size zip-closing plastic bags for the balloons.  So, where is the chemistry here?  To our eyes, the rubber membrane making up the wall of the balloon looks solid, without any holes.  Yet somehow the extracts make it out of the balloons and to your nose.  There are actually millions of holes, of course, but they are very, very tiny.  Air molecules and most scent molecules are small enough to fit through these holes.


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    April 2005


    Reference:   Celebrating Chemistry NCW 2004 newspaper, page 8. Facilitator tips found on: