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. 

    Mustard Mystery 

    Kids, is there really silver in that silver coin?  Even though our dimes, quarters, half dollars, and "silver" dollars are silver in appearance, those minted after 1971 actually have no silver in them. Silver was completely removed from dimes and quarters in 1965 and replaced with an outer layer of copper-nickel alloy bonded to an inner core of pure copper. The half dollar and "silver dollar" followed suit in 1971.  Believe it or not, our "copper" pennies nowadays are mostly zinc and our "silver" coins are mostly copper!

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

    Dimes and quarters minted before 1965 were composed of an alloy of 90% silver and 10% copper, and they are considered somewhat valuable by collectors. You can easily test for the presence of silver with a simple experiment. Using a plastic knife, apply a generous portion of mustard (yes, the yellow stuff you put on your hotdog) to both pre-1965 and post-1965 dimes and quarters. Let them sit overnight on a paper towel. The next day, rub off the mustard. A black spot will remain on the true silver coin but not on a non-silver coin.

    What's happening? Mustard contains natural sulfur compounds. Sulfur is an element that is very common in our day-to-day world. Sulfur reacts with the silver to form a black powder (a "precipitate") of silver sulfide. The chemical formula for silver sulfide is Ag2S. One of the challenges for this experiment will be in hunting down the pre-1965 coins - good luck and happy hunting!

    Here is an interesting tidbit. Eggs also contain a lot of sulfur. If you eat eggs with a silver plated fork you will find that your fork has black tarnish on it when you are finished. You made a new chemical while eating your breakfast!

    Check out the ChemShorts October 2000 article on "The Science of Money" for other interesting trivia about coins and paper money (


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    December 2007



    Brian Rohrig, "The captivating chemistry of coins", ChemMatters, ACS publication, April 2007, page 14 and
    On-line Museum Educators at