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. 

    Light on a Stick

    Kids, you have probably seen a Light Stick, a plastic tube that is often stored in an emergency survival kit instead of a flashlight. Once activated, the Light Stick glows brightly for many hours. Did you ever wonder how it can do this? The process is called chemiluminescence. Fireflies and light sticks make "cold light" from this chemical reaction that makes light without making any heat

    The "cold light" given off by living things is called bioluminescence. Certain kinds of moss glow in the dark, and rotting tree stumps give off an eerie light that is called foxfire. Many cases depend on bacteria. The flashlight fish, for example, lives very deep in the ocean where it is absolutely dark. They have sacs of luminous bacteria near their eyes. The bacteria glow all the time, but the fish can cover and uncover the sacs with flaps of skin. They search for food with these lights, blink to attract other flashlight fish, and confuse their predators by flashing and then quickly changing direction.

    Bacteria and fireflies make their cold light by mixing chemicals called luciferin, luciferase, oxygen, and ATP (adenosine triphosphate). This reaction has even been developed into a sophisticated medical test for treating tuberculosis (TB). Saliva samples taken from TB patients are treated to make luciferase and then luciferin is added to make them all glow. Each sample is then exposed to a different antibiotic until the right one works, the bacteria are killed, and the glow goes out.

    In Light Sticks, a large outer tube is made of flexible, translucent plastic. Inside is a solution of oxalate ester and fluorescent dye molecules. Also inside is a smaller glass tube that contains hydrogen peroxide. When you bend the stick, the thin glass tube breaks and allows all of the chemicals to mix and react. This chemical reaction provides the energy needed by the real workers in this process, which are called electrons. It is the Light Stick chemical system that has been repackaged to also make glowing bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. So now you know a little bit about the science behind the bright lights that your parents might make you wear at outdoor sporting events, concerts and fireworks!


    Kathleen Carrado Gregar, PhD, Argonne National Labs 
    [email protected]
    June 1996


    Reference: October 1995 issue ofChemMatters, a publication of the American Chemical Society, 1155 16th St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036.