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It seems like Chemistry outreach events come around quite often! Every Spring brings Earth Day, celebrated on April 22; the American Chemical Society participation, now in its 15th year, coincides with that day. Local Sections are asked to conduct outreach activities in their communities, and our Kalamazoo Section has done that for all but the first (pilot) year.
Each year we have offered activities and materials at the Kalamazoo Nature Center (KNC) during their Earth Day celebration; for two of the 14 years we had an additional outreach event at the Oshtemo Branch of the Kalamazoo Pubic Library, and for the last two years, when the Library has not held an Earth-Day theme event, we have cooperated with the Green-a-thon experience at the Celery Flats in Portage.
This year the theme of Chemist Celebrate Earth Day was "Chemistry helps feed the world". Also this year our Section has been fortunate to have a group of Chemistry students at Western Michigan University who have taken a keen interest in reaching out to young people with experiments which would engage them. These demos were done at The Celery Flats on Saturday, April 15 and at The KNC on Saturday, April 22. They made chromatography flowers, and they worked with the patrons to identify starch in food-stuffs as well as other items in daily use; they also offered educational materials. Students who helped at the Kalamazoo Nature Center were Renae Mroczek, Megan Callaghan, Emily Hanners, Jessica Henderson, Erin Heath, Greg Johnson, Jake Kirkendall, Dyonna Almon, and Dejainara Davidson Those who worked at the Celery Flats event were Hervin Crespo-Sandoval, Jerome Davis Jr., Erin Heath, RenaeMroczek, Greg Johnson and Jessica Henderson.
This year was unusual in that April 22 was also the day of a new activity, the March for Science, which in Kalamazoo ended at Bronson Park for the inaugural Kalamazoo Earth Day Celebration. The weather was perfect for the hundreds of attendees, who from 3-8 pm enjoyed music, food, science podium presentations and about 50 science-related exhibitors.
KACS was there as a sponsor/exhibitor. Tom Runge, Doug Williams and Steve Secreast ran our KACS booth, which centered on a participatory green chem demo where we had people convert iodide in aqueous solution to I2 using just a 9-volt battery. Based on the volume of reagent we went through, we had at least 150 people try the demo. It was great fun watching people scoping us out as they walked by our booth, and then when we called them over and had them try it, seeing them really get into the whole thing. Was great too, seeing many people just wanting to talk about chemistry once we started speaking to them. We also had some giveaways that we handed out, the biggest hit being pocket periodic tables, which was cool to see.
We received many thanks from the celebration organizers, in part for being a sponsor, but more for being one of the few exhibitors providing a demo for people to try. Talking chemistry and science is fun, but actually doing it is much better. Doug took the photo below of Tom and Steve in our booth. Additional photos of the celebration are available on the Celebration’s Facebook page at www.kalamazooearthday.org.