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. 

    Crystal Rings and Ferns

    This is a quick and easy crystal growing project.  All you need is a bit of table salt, water, a steel pan, and a stove to produce interesting salt crystal rings, ferns, and other shapes. Specifically, get these materials together along with an adult partner:

    • steel or iron pot - don't use a non-stick pan since the non-stick coating could overheat and release fumes
    • table salt (sodium chloride)
    • water
    • food coloring (optional)
    • kitchen stove

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

    Now just sprinkle a little salt in the pot and a few drops of water. You can add a drop of food coloring if you want colored crystals. Have an adult partner heat the water until you see the liquid starting to evaporate off the pan. Turn off the heat. Watch the crystals form as the water evaporates to form artful crystal shapes like rings and ferns. You can add more water and repeat the project over and over. All you do for clean-up is rinse out the pan.

    There are many variables to this experiment that you can examine, such as:

    • type of salt - iodized, uniodized, sea salt, etc.
    • concentration of salt - results are greatly affected by how much/little salt you add
    • rate of evaporation - affects how crystals form
    • rate of cooling - also affects crystal growth

    Notes: The best results are obtained when using a very small amount of salt. We’re told that a fern shape can sometimes occur from boiling salted pasta. If you use uniodized salt, you may get salt crystal cubes rather than rings. More complex shapes occur with sea salt and aquarium salt. Other salts will work for this project too (e.g., borax, epsom salts). Sugar is not a good choice because it will burn and possibly ruin your cookware.


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    September 2009


    References:  Dr. Anne Marie Helmenstine at