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!
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.
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.
Until next time,