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. 

    Ecofoam vs. Styrofoam

    Kids, have you ever seen the packaging peanuts that are made of foam? Have you ever noticed two different kinds of these peanuts? One kind is bright white and sort of S-shaped, while the others are not so white and not so curved. In this experiment we will find out the differences between the two types.

    The old-fashioned white kind of peanuts are made of Styrofoam, which is an expanded version of a polymer called polystyrene. The newer kind is called Ecofoam and it is made from corn starch. The most obvious difference between them in terms of chemical properties is that Ecofoam will dissolve in water while Styrofoam will not. Just put a foam peanut in a cup of water and wait a few minutes. The warmer the water the faster the Ecofoam will dissolve. Can you think of a way to take advantage of this difference for a useful purpose? Of course the answer is fairly obvious. Ecofoam was deliberately made as an alternative to Styrofoam because it will quickly degrade in the environment. It is therefore a more ecologically- and environmentally-friendly packaging peanut. (Can you see that Ecofoam would not make a very good beverage container, however?)

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

    If you have an adult partner that has access to acetone (the active ingredient in many nail polish removers), they can show you that Styrofoam will "melt" in acetone while Ecofoam will not. This could therefore be one way to reduce the space that Styrofoam products take up as waste.

    {SAFETY NOTE: Please leave the handling of any acetone only to an adult].


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    June 1995


    Reference: Steven D. Gammon, J. Chem. Ed. 1994, 71, 1077.