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. 

    Flower Food

    Kids, what’s up with those little cellophane packets of powder that come with cut flowers? They have three components:

    Food:  Sugar is needed to continue development of a bud into a flower, and the flower will perform better in terms of size, color and vase life.

    Hydration:  A wilted flower is one where the cells do not have their full amount of water. The outside ring of the stem is made up of tiny tubes or vessels. This group of vessels transports water from the roots (or vase) to the leaves and flowers. When a flower dehydrates through harvest and shipping, the chemistry needs a jumpstart. Agents that lower the solution pH encourage hydration. This is normally a mild acid such as citric acid.

    Antibacterial:  The water in the vase can quickly become bacteria soup. All it takes is a few stray pieces of plant tissue and some latent bacteria. Bacteria in the water will form plugs in the stem of the flower, blocking the water from flowing through the stem of the flower. The preservative contains an antibacterial agent to stop this from happening.

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

    Most packets contain 5 grams and make one pint of solution. Average vases hold at least one quart of water, however. Use too little and there is not enough antibacterial agent and you’ve got a recipe for cloudy, smelly water. The solution is to make your own at home!

    Tulips are a good flower to test plain water versus a preservative (either commercial or homemade). Use the same number of flowers per container, the same size container, and the same volume of liquid. Use warm water (100-110°F or 38-40°C) because it will move into the stems better than cold water. Tap water is fine; in fact the chlorine in tap water acts as a natural disinfectant. Have an adult partner handle the bleach in these recipes:

    Recipe #1

    • 2 cups lemon-lime soda (e.g., Sprite™ or 7-Up™)
    • 1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach
    • 2 cups warm water

    Recipe #2

    • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1 tablespoon sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach
    • 1 quart warm water

    Recipe #3

    • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach
    • 1 quart warm water

    Which ingredient acts as the food, the hydrating acid, and the antibacterial agent in each recipe?  We have even found websites advocating the use of Listerine™ mouthwash because it contains all of these ingredients! (e.g. <>)


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    March 2008


    Ann Marie Helmenstine at <>
    Karen Marinelli at <