Fast or Slow.  Chemistry Makes it Go!

From Bob Fowler, Chair of Cleveland Section NCW Committee.

The Cleveland Section of the American Chemical Society celebrated National Chemistry Week 2021 (Oct. 17-23) with a unique online Program hosted by our partners at the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL).  As we do every year, we offered our Program to students in Grades 2-6 with a goal of interesting young people in science in general and chemistry in particular.

Covid dictated the need for an online program rather than our usual live presentations at CCPL branches.  All participants were easily registered for the Program via the CCPL’s website, but a major problem with online programs is asking the participants to obtain some hard-to-get materials, especially some chemicals.  So our NCW Planning Committee (Katie Arendt, David Ball, Helen Mayer, Shermila Singham, Mark Waner, Susan Wang, Bob Williams and Bob Fowler) devised a series of at-home experiments for which we could provide these materials.  They were purchased by the Section and then separated into small “kits” by students at Case Western Reserve University for distribution to participants at their local CCPL branch.

In this way our Planning Committee created a Contest Program in which the students could safely perform meaningful chemistry experiments—at home, with adult supervision.  Complete instructions for completing the Program were given via a video and a text posted on the CCPL’s website.  The Program consisted of five “Steps”—two chemistry demonstrations (created and filmed by our Committee at John Carroll University) and three hands-on, fun, age-appropriate chemistry experiments.  After they watched the demonstrations on the video, the online text guided the students through the completion of the 3 hands-on chemistry experiments.  Each Program Step had a theme centered on one of the factors that causes changes in reaction rates, so the students were asked one question about each Step.  All Program details can be found here.

When they had completed the Program, the students submitted their answers to the 5 questions via a form on the CCPL’s website.  They also were asked to complete a “Matching Table” in which they matched 5 variables (temperature, concentration, stirring/mixing, presence of a catalyst and surface area) to the 5 Steps.  Each of these variables and the concept of reaction rates had been explained to the students in the online text.

Out of 205 registrants, 71 submissions were received as the Program closed on October 31.  Our local Section generously offered cash prizes of $100, $75 and $50 to the first, second and third place winners in each grade group, so 15 out of 71 participants will receive a prize.

Hopefully our participating students enjoyed this year’s NCW Program and maybe even learned some chemistry along the way.