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 Crystal Christmas Tree

    Kids, this crystal Christmas tree project works quickly from a paper or sponge tree that “grows” crystal foliage. 

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

    An adult partner will need to obtain and handle these materials:

    • 6 tablespoons or 90 ml water
    • 6 tablespoons or 90 ml table salt (preferably uniodized)
    • 6 tablespoons or 90 ml Mrs. Stewart's liquid laundry bluing agent
    • 1 tablespoon or 15 ml household ammonia
    • food coloring

    Make the magic solution by dissolving the salt in the water and stirring in the bluing liquid and then the ammonia.  Bluing is a non-toxic and biodegradable bleaching product made of a very fine blue iron powder suspended in water (this is called a "colloidal suspension").

    Here are two ways to try growing your crystal tree. You can cut a sponge into the shape of a Christmas tree, set it in a shallow dish, and pour the crystal solution over the sponge. Set the dish someplace where it won't be disturbed. You can dot the sponge with food coloring (like ornaments), if desired. Depending on the temperature and humidity, crystals may start to appear on the sponge tree in less than an hour. You should have a nice set of crystals if you let the dish sit out overnight.

    Another method is to cut a cardboard or blotting paper Christmas tree. If you make two of these trees, you can cut one halfway down the top and the other halfway up from the bottom, match the notched ends together, and create a standing 3-dimensional tree. Again you can decorate your tree with food coloring ornaments, or use green coloring alone in the solution to make a solid green tree. Set this tree in a shallow dish that contains the crystal growing solution. Crystal 'leaves' will start to grow on your tree as the liquid is wicked up the paper and evaporates. 


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    December 2010



    Anne Marie Helmenstine, “Magic Crystal Christmas Tree“,

    You also can get inexpensive kits to grow magic crystal Christmas trees: