Skip navigation

This is a big week for holidays around the world!


On October 29 and 30, many South Asian countries will observe Deepavali or Diwali, which is the Hindu Festival of Lights that celebrates the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness. Lights are everywhere and fireworks are common. Many people light small oil lamps, called diyas, in their homes. If you light your own diyas, you can use them to explain adhesion, cohesion, and capillary action to kids.


In the UK, Canada, and the US people are getting ready for Halloween on October 31. As we enter our autumn, pumpkins are everywhere, the weather is getting cooler, and sweet treats are abundant. People decorate their homes with lights and prepare costumes. Adults will watch scary movies, and kids will visit their neighbors, say "trick or treat!" to receive tons of candy. This is normally not considered dangerous, but just in case ACS Reactions recently released a video to answer the question: how much candy would kill you?


Like Deepavali/Diwali and Halloween, el Día de los Muertos in Mexico is a great opportunity to eat a lot of sweets. In this case, sugar skulls and pan de muertos. It is said that deceased loved ones can come back to visit on this day, and so everyone throws a big party! People leave the favorite toys and snacks of the deceased at their graves or at altars dedicated in their memory. On November 2, before you decide to bake some pan de muertos learn about the chemistry of baking here.


To help you celebrate the season, wherever you are, check out Halloween experiments from the ACS,  this list of ways to incorporate math and science into Diwali celebrations and a description of a "firework" like lava lamp; and a video explaining how "glow in the dark" makeup works for some great calavera face paint.


Know about other holiday themed chemistry experiments? Let us know in the comments!


Happy Diwali! Happy Halloween! ¡Feliz Día de los Muertos!

Around the world, children's favorite question seems to be "why?"  Seemingly simple, fundamental concepts can be quite difficult to explain to a discerning young scientist. AlanAlda_FlameChallenge.jpg


How would you explain the concept of energy to an 11-year old? Could you make it entertaining while also keeping it accurate?


The Flame Challenge, held every year by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University (yes, directed by the noted actor), challenges scientists to explain a concept as fundamental, and surprisingly complex, as "what is a flame?" to students of this age.


Last year's question was "what is sound?"  Past challenges have been to answer the questions: What is time? What is color? What is sleep?


Scientists and 11-year old judges from around the world participate in this challenge. The winners in two separate categories - written and visual explanations - are flown to New York City to be honored and participate in the World Science Festival.


When asked why this age group was chosen to be the judge, Alda says that 11-year old children seem to be the toughest crowd. As one judge from a previous Flame Challenge said: "it's OK to be funny; it's not OK to be silly. We're 11, we're not 7."


I am so proud that the ACS is a sponsor of such a great initiative. If any of you decide to compete, let us know!

Good luck!

Do you live in Canada or the USA and want to start a new Science Festival?


The Science Festival Alliance, which is supported by the charitable Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, announced a grant matching opportunity for new Festival Initiatives. They will fund up to $10,000 to match independent fundraising efforts. You can find more details and application materials here.


Live anywhere else? A Festival Training Institute (FTI) will come your way soon!


The second FTI will be held in Panama from November 20 - 23, 2016. Delegations from our ACS Chapters in Peru and Brazil; from our allies at the Sociedad Química de México; and from previous Festival sites in Colombia and Chile will train for two days to develop Festival proposals for 2017. They will complete their training by attending a Festival planned at the Ciudad del Saber by Dr. Rafael Vasquez.


Dr. Mah Siau Hui, from the ACS Malaysia chapter, will host the third FTI in Malaysia in late February, 2017. She will also join us in Panama.


Future FTI's will travel to Eastern Europe and the Middle East and Africa, so stay tuned for more details!

Recently the Office of International Activities announced that both grants prepared by attendees of the inaugural Dalian Festival Training Institute will receive full funding for Festivals to be held in 2016, and both applications received perfect scores from our reviewers!


The ACS Taiwan International Chemical Sciences Chapter won an award to continue and expand their program "Chemistry on the Go." During the International Year of Chemistry in 2011, Chemistry on the Go was developed. A 3.5 ton box truck was converted into a mobile lab that can visit junior high schools in all regions of Taiwan, no matter how remote they may be. Dr. Bo-Cheng Wang, of the department of Chemistry at Tamkang University, and Dr. Hsien-Chang Kao, Executive Director of the Tamkang University Center for Science Education, have worked with others to develop chemistry "magic shows" and hands-on activities to get students excited about science and show how it affects our daily lives.


Members of the ACS Candidate Chapter Jin-Jin-Ji at Tianjin University won the second Festival grant. This team will work with members of the ACS Student Chapter at Tianjin University to host an outreach event broadly targeting their local community. Students from elementary to high school and their families will be invited to participate in 10 experiments, each led by two student volunteers. Jeanette Mar and Zhou Yan attended the Festival training institute - you can see them here! - and have worked with Dr. Nathanial Finney and Dr. Kim K Baldridge to develop their exciting program.


These teams join others led by the Mexican Chemical Society (Sociedad Química de México, SQM) and by the ACS Malaysia Chapter. SQM will host a Chemistry Festival over three days during their 35th Annual Meeting, and the ACS Malaysia Chapter will hold theirs during the Penang International Science Fair.



恭喜获奖者! Tahniah kepada pemenang! ¡Felicidades a los ganadores! Congratulations to our winners!

If you are not already familiar with the series of videos called ACS Reactions, you are in for a pleasant surprise!


Since 2014, The ACS Reactions team has been producing high quality videos that explain the chemistry at play in our daily lives. This is, naturally, a great fit for anyone who works with Chemistry Festivals, science outreach, and any other communication with the public. Plus, they are very fun!


Videos are available featuring "life hacks" - such as how to make bananas ripen more quickly, get rid of fruit flies, or clean your home. There are videos about topics that are fundamentally interesting to many people on the internet - such as coffee, cats, dogs.


ACS Reactions also features scientists throughout history, particularly minority scientists, and great discoveries made from mistakes.


ACS Reactions also produces timely videos, such as an explanation of steriods and anti-doping efforts in the Rio 2016 Olympics and coverage of a recent crisis of high lead levels in water in Flint, Michigan, USA.


New videos are added each week, and there are currently 158 to choose from! Look through the collection and see what your community would find most interesting, there is sure to be something for everyone.


The above links are from YouTube. If you cannot access YouTube, you can also access the videos for free through iTunes. We are in the process of moving content to Youku for our colleagues in Greater China.


Have a topic you'd like to see covered? Let them know!


Until next time,


Hello, ACS Network Community!


Let me introduce myself. My name is Lily Raines, a recent Ph.D. in Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology who has always enjoyed science outreach. I joined the Office of International Activities at the American Chemical Society in March of 2016, and my main responsibility is managing the ACS Chemistry Festival Series.


What is an ACS Chemistry Festival? It is a great event where volunteers, who are typically undergraduate science students, lead young children through experiments that show that chemistry is all around us. The budding scientists are often 6-15 years old, and all the experiments they do use household items.  Volunteers can describe the science behind experiments to the children who attend, their families, and any full-grown scientists who stop by. They also serve as great role models.


Festivals have be held all around the world, starting in Latin America (hence why it is often called the Festival de Química) and now have reached as far as Nigeria and China. No matter the location, children leave the Festivals feeling very excited about science. Check out the survey results below!Bogota2013Beijing2014_FestivalFeedback.png


When I joined the office, we were facing a good problem. Over the 10 years since the Chemistry Festival started, so many great people have organized wonderful Festivals. More people want to participate than we can train directly. So, we decided to debut the Festival Training Institute (FTI).


An FTI is an intensive, two- to three-day event where we train our guests in everything they need to know to host a successful Festival. We cover safety precautions, communication skills, recruiting volunteers, fundraising strategies, and monitoring Festival success.


Each FTI is planned with a local host to ensure that all of our material is locally relevant. To maintain continuity, the host of the next FTI attends the training preceding their event. For our first event, we asked Dr. Luoheng Qin, Secretary of the ACS Shanghai chapter and host of two previous Festivals in China, to be our host. We invited Dr. Rafael Vásquez to host our second FTI, which will be held in Panama in November 2016. He joined us in Dalian for our first ever event.


We invited the ACS Chapters in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the ACS Candidate Chapters of Greater Beijing (Jin-Jin-Ji) and Southwestern China, to nominate two people for ACS to sponsor to attend this training. Two chapters even sent an additional person, and every attendee was engaged and passionate about hosting their own Chemistry Festival. Ingrid Montes, Director-at-Large and founder of the Chemistry Festival, taught many of the classes during the FTI. Her knowledge and experience is incomparable in this area and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and learning from her.


For me, the highlight of the event was watching each delegation explain one of the Festival Experiments to the group at four levels. First, each team described how they would explain their experiment to a six-year old child; second, to a 15-year old; third, to a non-scientist family member; and finally to fellow scientists. The creativity and enthusiasm displayed by our delegates really inspired me, and – just like in a real Festival – it was a lot of fun!



Patricia Kostiuk, a fellow staff member, and I, were so glad to hear that everyone who attended the FTI thought it was useful, a good investment of time, and that they feel ready to host their own Festivals.


We were even happier to get great feedback on how to improve the program for our next event. Based on your feedback, we are extending the program, inviting more people, and using this online community to connect all Festival Organizers with each other.


As I write this, each delegation that attended our FTI is putting the final details on the Festival Grant applications that they began during the FTI. I am so excited to see their final plans, and I cannot wait to hear about how their Chemistry Festivals go.


To see photos from the event, .


Want to contribute to this blog? Let me know! We would love to have entries about the Chemistry Festivals you plan, past events, and anything related to science outreach.


Are you interested in attending a future FTI? If you live in Latin America, you’re eligible to come to our event in Panama November, 2016. Contact me to learn more!


Until next time,