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. 

    Fossil Frenzy

    Kids, let's learn how fossils are formed and preserved.  

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

     Use fresh play dough that is soft and pack it into an empty margarine tub until the tub is half full. Make sure the surface is very smooth. Coat a twig, shell, or chicken bone with a thin film of vegetable oil. Press it into the play dough to make a clear, deep imprint. Remove the item and throw it away. Let the play dough harden for a day or two in order to make your special mold fossil.

    Coat your hard mold fossil lightly with more oil. Measure 1 cup plaster of Paris and 1/2 cup water and mix them together. (Be sure to follow all precautions on the plaster of Paris label). Pour the mixture on top of the mold fossil and let it dry. Carefully separate the plaster piece and notice your new cast fossil, which has the outward shape of the original item. The play dough represents the soft mud of ancient times. Plants and animals made imprints in the mud. If nothing collected in the prints, the mud dried and made a mold fossil. If sediments filled the imprint, a sedimentary rock formed with the resulting cast fossil.

    Plaster of Paris is made by grinding a clear, shiny crystal called gypsum (calcium sulfate, CaSO4 .2H2O) into a powder. The powder is heated to dry out all the moisture. This dry powder changes back into a solid when water is added, but it never looks clear and shiny again. Some heat is given off during this phase change!


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    March 1994


    References: "WonderScience", 1993, 8(1); J. VanCleave Earth Science for Every Kid, 1991, p. 48; J. VanCleave Chemistry for Every Kid, 1989, p. 144.