Cal ACS Celebrates Earth Day at the John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, CA

Members of the California Section returned for the annual festival at the John Muir National Historic Site, a full day celebration of Earth Day in Martinez, CA.  This year the festival fell on April 22nd, the date of the original Earth Day in 1970, and the birthday of the great naturalist John Muir. A procession led by bagpipers and John Muir (represented by Frank Helling of the Park Service), followed by many of the exhibitors, opened the event. As Master of Ceremonies, chemist Igor Skaredoff introduced several speakers, musical ensembles, a silent auction, and the presentation of the 40th annual John Muir Conservation Awards that recognized the work of several groups.  The public explored the park and visited over fifty exhibit booths on environmental conservation issues.   Many hundreds of people attended the event.


The Cal ACS booth featured this year’s Earth Day theme, “Chemistry Helps Feed The World,“ developed by the ACS Committee on Community Activities (CCA) as part of its Chemists Celebrate Earth Day (CCED) Program.  Sheila Kanodia from our Section was a member of the theme team. Visitors to the booth could try out the Starch Search, an activity that revealed the starch content of foods such as pasta and crackers using counterfeit currency detection pens that can be purchased in most office supply stores.  These inexpensive markers contain an iodine solution that reacts with the starch found in ordinary paper (but not in the special, cloth-based paper used to print money).  This activity was described in the Earth Day 2017 edition of Celebrating Chemistry (in both English or Spanish versions), distributed for free to visitors, along with Periodic Table wallet cards and other souvenirs. 


Also popular with both children and adults was Plants Aromas and Molecule Building, presented by Cal ACS Chair-Elect Greti Séquin. Visitors were challenged to identify plant essences and then to build molecular models of key aroma compounds, using the popular MolyMod plastic model kits.  Several youngsters remembered our activity from previous years and made it a point to visit us again.


Through their energy and enthusiasm, Cal ACS members Sheila Kanodia, Alex Madonik, Elaine Yamaguchi, Greti Sequin, and Lou Rigali, in addition to volunteers from UC Berkeley (Juliette Verhaegan and Pawel Misztal) helped make the event a success, interacting with a constant stream of visitors of all ages.  We were even helped by the young daughters of one of one volunteer, who were taking the molecular models apart again after visitors were done with them. Our volunteers wore “Exploring Our World Through Chemistry” tee shirts provided by the ACS, and the Cal ACS booth displayed banners and Earth Day balloons featuring the ACS logo and tagline, “Chemistry for Life.” The ACS-endorsed March for Science logo was also on display.


Mild temperatures on a sunny day helped us reach out to the public with eco-friendly chemistry activities. Our participation in this annual event continues to build a positive image of chemistry and of science in general, while making new connections with East Bay educators and organizations.  The event was a success even though many of our members were participating in the March for Science or proctoring the Chemistry Olympiad on the same day.


Sheila Kanodia (Earth Day Coordinator), Alex Madonik (National Chemistry Week Coordinator), and Greti Séquin (Chair-Elect)

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  • Project SEED Coordinator Elaine Yamaguchi explains the Starch Search.
  • Cal ACS Chair-Elect Greti Séquin meets John Muir (aka Frank Helling of the Park Service).
  • Inexpensive counterfeit currency detection pens reveal the starch content of lasagna noodles and potato chips.
  • The Cal ACS logo and tagline were clearly visible along with displays of the Chemists Celebrate Earth Day theme.
  • Pawel Misztal with visitors eager to explore plant aroma chemistry
  • A young chemist with her model of limonene, a key aroma compound in lemons
  • Eager visitors examine the plant essences and prepare to build their molecular models.
  • NCW Coordinator Alex Madonik and Pawel Misztal (accompanied by his daughters) encourage molecular model builders.
  • Project SEED Coordinator Elaine Yamaguchi, Earth Day Coordinator Sheila Kanodia, Chair-Elect Greti Séquin, and Juliette Verhaegan


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