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Kids and Chemistry

"Kids & Chemistry" is a national program that enlists individual scientist volunteers, many through ACS sections and local employers, to conduct demonstrations and hands-on activities for children, ages 9-12. This is done in classrooms as well as in informal education settings.

Scope. In the latest year for which data is available, 1996, ACS' Office of Public Outreach conducted more than 14 training sessions throughout the United States for this program, and 1,800 scientist volunteers worked with over 60,000 children on hands-on activities in more than 1,000 schools, libraries, and other community venues nationwide.

There is no limit to the number of people who can participate in the program each year. At present, more than 20 local sections of the ACS sponsor "Kids & Chemistry" programs, as do many large and small companies.

Target Audience. "Kids & Chemistry" is aimed at children between the ages of 9 and 12 because it is in this age range that children are most likely to lose their natural interest in investigating the world around them.

Hands-on Activities and Materials. The "Kids & Chemistry" program encourages volunteers to rely on hands-on activities developed and marketed by the ACS. All ACS hands-on activities are reviewed for content and safety.

The activities come pre-packaged for up to 32 children. Each package contains all the necessary materials and reusable activity books. There are 11 packs with names such as "Jiggle Jelly, " on polymers, and "What's In a Color?," on chromatography. One of the two activity books, the "Hands-on Activities and Demonstrations Guide," contains 19 hands-on activities that can be used with groups of between 5 and 500 children and adults. The other activity book, the "Large Event Guide," contains the kind of demonstrations that might be required at a mall or other large event. The ACS plans to publish additional activity books in 1997, including a guide to environmentally friendly chemistry. For more information, visit the Kids & Chemistry website.

Typical Classes and the Roles of Scientists. "Kids & Chemistry" was developed so that it could be used either in a classroom or in an informal education setting (science museums, youth clubs, Scout events, libraries, malls, and so on ). About 75% of the volunteers work in regular classrooms, usually in teams of four or five to increase the amount of contact they can have with small groups of children. The ACS also encourages repeat visits to increase impact. Other "Kids & Chemistry" venues, such as malls, are attractive because they offer opportunities to build partnerships with other groups within the community, increase parent involvement, and increase the involvement of scientists who can't volunteer during work hours.

Scientist Recruitment and Training. Most of the "Kids & Chemistry" scientists are chemists and chemical engineers who have been recruited through the 188 local sections of the ACS, through sessions at national and regional ACS meetings, and through word of mouth. Interested scientists can attend eight-hour training sessions held at ACS national meetings or as arranged by employers or ACS local sections.

Impact. During the 1993-4 school year, the ACS began pilot projects in four school districts (in Virginia, Texas, Minnesota, and California). Involved were 420 volunteers (of whom 182 had attended trained), working with 2,524 children in classrooms and 6,251 outside of classrooms. The ACS used both qualitative and quantitative methods to measure the results. Overall, the program was shown to have a positive impact on the children, the volunteer scientists, the ACS local sections, where applicable, and the classroom teachers. Specific findings are as follows:

  • 2300 children were surveyed following individual classroom events. A large majority responded that they had learned "a lot" or "a little," and 97% said they wanted to do another activity. A majority of the children indicated that they now knew more about chemistry and that they believed chemistry helps them every day. They also said they planned to take more science classes in high school.
  • Surveyed at the end of the program, 75% of the volunteer scientists said they planned to participate the following year, and 87% said they would recommend the program to a colleague.
  • Only 38% of the volunteers had attended an ACS local section meeting in the previous three years. Also, the volunteers were more likely to be women than the ACS members as a whole (40% cf. 18% of ACS membership) and also younger (35% were aged 26-35 cf. 21% of the ACS membership).
  • Of the 70 teachers completing questionnaires, 90% said the students enjoyed the activity "a lot," 99% said the students learned "a lot" or "some" from the activity, and 100% said they would invite the "Kids & Chemistry" program back to their classrooms.
 
For further information about the "Kids & Chemistry" program, please contact
Jodi Greenblatt, Program Manager Phone: 202-872-4381

e-mail: j_greenblatt@acs.org


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