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. 

    Homemade Essential Oil Air Fresheners

    Kids, have you heard that necessity is the mother of invention?  For those of you with asthma who can use some help in the room-deodorizing department, there is hope. The answer is homemade, all-natural, essential oil powered, gel based air fresheners.  They smell great.  They last a good long time.  They are cheap to make.  They have five ingredients you can find at any grocery or department store.  And chemistry can explain how it works! 

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

    First a word about essential oils: they’re powerfully scented and a little goes a long way, so go easy on how much you add.  You don’t want to add more than 30 drops per air freshener until you know just how strong your oil is.  Here is a basic air freshener recipe, with a few favorite scent combinations below.

    You’ll need:

    • 1 ounce granulated or powdered gelatin
    • 2 cups cold water, divided
    • 20-30 drops of essential oil
    • 1 Tablespoon salt
    • food coloring
    • a small saucepan and stove for heating it
    • heat-proof jars to hold the hot dessolved gelatin liquid
    • a disposable chopstick or skewer to use as a stirring stick

    Watch an adult partner do the following steps. Bring one cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Sprinkle the gelatin over the boiling water and stir until smooth and all of the gelatin is dissolved. Add the salt and the second cup of cold water and stir. Set aside. Add essential oil and food coloring to the jar(s).  Quickly pour the hot dissolved gelatin over the essential oil and food coloring.  Stir until evenly colored. Allow to cool uncovered on a heat-proof surface. When cooled, keep covered until ready to use.  When ready to use, uncover the jar and place it wherever you want a lovely scent.

    An essential oil is a concentrated liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. An oil is "essential" if it carries a distinctive scent, or essence, of the plant. They are used in perfumescosmetics, and soaps, for flavoring food and drinks, and for adding scents to household cleaning products.

    Gelatin is a translucent, colorless, flavorless solid derived from collagen.  It is found in gummi candiesmarshmallowsgelatin dessert, and some ice creamdip and yogurt.  Gelatin is classified as a food.  When you dissolve the gelatin powder in hot water, you break the weak bonds that hold the collagen protein chains together. Each chain is a triple-helix that will float around in the bowl until the gelatin cools and new bonds form between the amino acids in the protein. Scented oils and colored water fills in the spaces between the polymer chains, becoming trapped as the bonds become more secure. The gel is mostly water.

    Some Scent Combinations:

    sweet basil and lemon air freshener

    • 20 drops Sweet Basil essential oil
    • 8 drops Lemon essential oil

    rosemary orange air freshener

    • 25 drops Sweet Orange essential oil
    • 5 drops Rosemary essential oil

    fresh pine scent air freshener

    • 25 drops Fir Pine essential oil
    • 3 drops Lemon essential oil
    • 2 drops Sweet Orange essential oil
    • 1 drop Bergamot essential oil


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    February 2013


    Thanks to Emily Neis for telling us about this idea.