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 Borax Snowflake

    Kids, do real snowflakes melt a little too quickly for your full enjoyment?  How about growing your own out of borax, coloring it blue if you like, and enjoying the sparkle all year long!  Here is what you need: string, a wide-mouth pint-sized jar, white pipe cleaners, borax (see tips), a pencil, boiling water, optional blue food coloring, and scissors. 

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

    Here is what you do.  1. Cut a pipe cleaner into three equal parts. 2. Twist the sections together at their centers to form a six-sided snowflake shape.  This will be your scaffold or template.  If an end isn't even, just trim to get the desired shape.  The snowflake scaffold should fit inside the jar.  3. Tie the string to the end of one of the snowflake arms.  Tie the other end of the string to the pencil.  You want the length to be such that the pencil hangs the snowflake scaffold freely into the jar (not touching the bottom of the jar).  4. Take the snowflake scaffold out of the jar and ask your adult partner to fill it with boiling water.  5. Add borax powder, one tablespoon at a time, to the boiling water. Stir to dissolve after each addition.  Use 3 tablespoons of borax per cup of water (1 pint = 2 cups).  It is okay if some undissolved borax settles to the bottom of the jar.  6. If desired, you may tint the mixture with food color.  7. Hang the pipe cleaner snowflake into the jar so that the pencil rests on top of the jar and the snowflake is completely covered with liquid.  8. Let the jar sit in an undisturbed location overnight.  9. The next day, look at your pretty crystals!  Remove the snowflake, dispose of the liquid down the drain, and re-hang the snowflake until it is dry.  Then you can hang your snowflake as a decoration or in a window to catch the sunlight.

    What is the chemistry here?  This can be considered as an example of geochemistry.  Borax is a complex borate mineral of composition Na2B4O7 -10H2O (hydrated sodium borate).  It is formed in deserts from the evaporation of water in temporary lakes called playas.  The playas form only during rainy seasons due to runoff from nearby mountains.  The runoff is rich in the element boron and is highly concentrated by evaporation in the arid climate.  Eventually the concentration is so great that crystals of borax and other boron minerals form.


    1. Borax is available at grocery stores in the laundry soap section, (e.g. 20 Mule Team Borax Laundry Booster). Do not use Boraxo soap.

    2. Because boiling water is used and because borax isn't intended for eating, adult supervision is recommended.

    3. If you can't find borax you can use sugar or salt. In these cases the crystals will take longer to grow, so be patient.  Add sugar or salt to the boiling water until it stops dissolving.  Ideally you want no crystals at the bottom of the jar. 


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    February 2006



    Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine at: