Chemistry Public Engagement
Faculty, staff and students in the Department of Chemistry work with the Urbana-Champaign community to instill an appreciation for how chemistry is critical to decisions that we make in the real world. In addition, many people strive to establish a connection between curiosity and scientific experimentation that may ignite an interest in younger students to pursue further education in the sciences. Listed below are some of the groups and projects in which they participate.
The REACT Program is a civic engagement program offered by the School of Chemical Sciences and the Department of Chemistry that began in Fall 2002. It has grown into the largest outreach program of its kind at UIUC. Through the dedication and innovations of the undergraduate staff, the program continues to expand, delivering a variety of programs to many different facets of the communities in East Central Illinois. REACT enlists nearly 400 volunteers per semester to visit every grade school within a 30 mile radius of campus. The mission is to promote hands-on learning of chemistry with local youngsters. REACT also works with groups like the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum, the Girl Scouts, and, the Champaign home-schooling groups. Last semester alone the REACT Program reached over 3,000 youngsters!
The ACS Undergraduate Student Chapter at Illinois promotes personal and professional development of its members through organized events and individualized mentoring. Although the chapter serves as a support group for chemistry majors, students from any discipline are welcome to join if they have an interest in chemistry. They offer many networking, educational, and social opportunities to our members. In addition, they send representatives to chemistry clubs (ChemClubs) at local high schools where we perform demonstrations that their members have designed themselves. The high school students that participate in these events are also encouraged to participate in several practice exams that the student chapter hosts in preparation for the U.S. National Chemistry Olympiad competition.
Alpha Chi Sigma is a professional and social fraternity for men and women in the chemical sciences. The group hosts several professional activities, including: hosting the annual Krug Lecture, arranging faculty chats and luncheons, hosting alumni and company chats, teaching boy-scouts chemistry to attain their Chemistry Merit Badge and performing chemistry demo shows for local youth.
SACNAS is a professional organization aimed at encouraging minorities, especially Native Americans and Latinos to pursue graduate studies in STEM sciences. On campus, the group is composed of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty. One of their largest outreach events, Cena y Ciencias, is a collaborative scientific outreach program in the bilingual community of the Urbana Public School District. Conceptualized by the Parent Advisory Council of the Dual Language Program (DLP) at Leal Elementary School in 2013, Cena y Ciencias is a collaboration between DLP parent faculty members of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the UIUC Society of the Advancement of Chicanos and Native American Scientists (SACNAS), and U of I Extension 4-H Youth Development Program to provide high-quality science lessons for students of the Program as well as academic family engagement.
Local Sections help chemists stay active and involved in their communities by providing a forum for networking and collaboration and by supporting chemists' efforts to educate their community about chemistry. The East Central Illinois (ECI) Local Section of the American Chemical Society has over 500 members from Effingham to Champaign. The list of institutions that the section serves includes the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Eastern Illinois University, and Parkland College. They encourage fellow chemists, other scientists, students, and the interested public to come to their public lectures and special events.
The East Central Illinois Women Chemists Committee at UIUC was founded in the fall of 2005 to promote the development of women in the chemical sciences. With the support of the local section and the University of Illinois Chemistry Department, they have planned events that include professional and social opportunities that benefit graduate students, faculty, staff, and undergraduates. One of their most distinguished is called "Bonding with Chemistry": A Day Camp for Girls. This annual day camp is held each summer for girls in 5th through 8th grade to promote interest in science. Activities and experiments include using science to make art and toys, investigating the earth and environment, exploring the chemistry of food and decorating t-shirts.
Established in 2015 by graduate students in the Department of Chemistry at Illinois, the East Central Illinois YCC advocates for and provide resources to students, early-career chemists and professionals in the chemical sciences and related fields. YCC also addresses specific issues facing younger chemists within ACS and serves as their voice in ACS.
ETC collaborates with the Urbana Middle School faculty. University of Illinois-UC graduate student volunteers prepare and direct three labs that explore with the students the nature of matter and the special chemistry of chemiluminescence and polymers. Approximately 350 students from 13 science classes participate in this three-day event.
The Department of Chemistry has participated in hosting the Illinois Science Olympiad in many past years. Graduate student volunteers design and judge events at the regional and state middle and high school competitions. Approximately 1500 students from 50 schools participate in these one-day competitions.
The Orpheum Children's Science Museum offers the Weekend Wizards program every Saturday afternoon. Programs are free for children who are members of the museum, and cover topics ranging from the stars to recycling. Students and organizations at the University of Illinois participate in providing these programs. For more information, click the link above to visit the Orpheum Children's Science Museum Weekend Wizards website! Other activities for children are available at the Orpheum.
Project SEARCH (Science Education and Research for Children)
Groups of 2 to 3 UIUC students enrolled in CHEM 199S develop lesson plans and decide with the elementary school teachers what subjects to teach. They visit Urbana or Champaign classrooms 2 hours a week for a semester. This class targets K-5 classrooms.