National ACS assigned the theme Fabulous Fibers: The Chemistry of Fabrics for National Chemistry Week (NCW) this year. Our Section celebrates NCW by sponsoring a Program for students in grades 2-6, and we’re always looking for ways to hold their interest while they learn some chemistry. This year we’re going to begin our Program by having the student participants test samples of cotton, polyester and nylon for properties like dyeability, abrasion resistance and water absorption. After that the participants will be taken in a somewhat different direction.
NCW is Oct. 16-22, so Halloween will be close at hand. After considerable discussion, our NCW Planning Committee decided to build a Halloween flavor into the program this year. We’re going to have the participants determine which fabric would be the most “suitable” (by our criteria) for zombie clothing and then actually create their own zombie “clothed” in a cotton fabric “decorated” by them.
Zombies are nasty creatures with ragged, sweaty, dirty and sometimes even bloody clothes. They often have bloody scars on their faces, and they frequently foam at the mouth. Each participant will be given an 11”X14” piece of posterboard on which they will draw a 4” face with a bloody scar (gelatin, diluted school glue and a drop or two of red food dye) and a foaming mouth (baking soda and vinegar). Then they’ll be given an 8” square piece of cotton fabric which they can cut into a piece of “clothing” of their choice (pants, dress, shirt, etc.) and then “decorate” with food color dyes (red for blood, yellow for sweat, and green or blue for stains) and scuff with sandpaper as they see fit. After completion of the zombie’s “clothing”, they’ll glue it to the posterboard to complete their zombie.
Each participant will be asked age-appropriate questions about the efficacy of dyeing, abrading and water absorbency of fabrics (natural vs. synthetic) and possibly some elementary chemistry of foaming mouths and bloody scars. The answers to these questions and a picture of their zombie creation will be submitted for judging; 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners will be awarded prizes of $100, $75 and $50 in each age category.
As always, we are partnered with the Cuyahoga County Public Library (CCPL) system which will advertise our Program, provide facilities for its performance and distribute kits of materials provided by the Section and assembled by students at CWRU. All participants will sign up for our Program/Contest and will ultimately submit their answers via the CCPL’s computer system. Covid has forced us to create online Programs the last couple of years, but this year participants will have the option of attending the Program at one of 10 designated branches of the CCPL or online at home. We’re anticipating a huge demand for the Program this year, so we’re preparing for 500 students to participate—an equal number at the libraries and at home. It should be fun.