From Bob Botto, Event Organizer, on behalf of the Greater Houston Section - American Chemical Society in Partnership with Chemical Marketing & Economics:
National Chemistry Week (NCW) at the Children’s Museum has been held every year since 2015 except the two Covid years of 2020 and 2021. Each year National ACS sets the theme for NCW and I interpret it, plan, and set up the event. This year the NCW theme was “The Healing Power of Chemistry”. This year also the GHS-ACS had the good fortune of being sponsored by the Chemical Marketing & Economics (CME) organization which donated $1000 specifically for this event.
Interpreting the theme to appeal to kids seemed difficult to us. My wife Kathy said that kids love flowers, flowers grow on plants and that plants can also be used as medicine. Thus, we became focused on medicinal plants to tell the story of the healing power of chemistry. I selected plants that are effective, sustainable, and readily available. Personally, I have a much better life because of medicinal plants. I suffer from heart failure and hawthorn berries from the hawthorn tree improve my heart function so much that I take 8 capsules of hawthorn berry extract every day!
Once I had the focus of the theme, I chose 7 medicinal plants to display on the Theme Table. The benefits of these plants and the medicines they produce are effective against “Coughs to Cancer”. With each plant I displayed a live example, the chemical structure of the active ingredient and an example of the commercial medicine made with the plant. From the contribution of CME we were able to buy giveaway marigolds for the Theme Table.
I used tried and true Kids & Chemistry activities for the other tables. In previous years Slime, Color Changes with Juices, Radish writing and Play Doh have been hits. With the contribution of CME we bought giveaway slime and science gift bags for the slime table.
Our volunteers came from Chemistry clubs at three local colleges: University of Houston Downtown, Rice University and University of St. Thomas. I organized them into two shifts, Shift 1, 9am-noon including setup and shift 2, noon to 3pm including cleanup. 30 students reported for the first shift and 12 for the second shift. I had 40 volunteers preregistered. Some of the students stayed for the whole day so I’d say 36 volunteers participated. We offered all of them free parking at the museum and pizza at noon. They ate 10 large pizzas! The volunteers were more than adequate and enthusiastic about participating.
The kids started coming at 10 am with their family members. I counted how many were there several times during the day. At least 15 visitors were there with a maximum of 21. I estimated that they spent 10 minutes in the area so if we average 18 visitors and they turn over 6 times an hour that is 540 visitors for the entire 5 hour day. I saw a congestion of people at the end of the Great Hall where we were set up all day. Last year I estimated 400 visitors so this was a significant increase over last year.
I believe this event was a blowout success in every way. The public learned the importance of chemistry in healing and the kids and adults had a lot of fun.Respectfully submitted,
Bob Botto, ACS-GHS Kids & Chemistry Coordinator