“Never miss an opportunity to show the human side of chemistry.”
As noted in Surrounded by Science, “A first step in understanding how to promote science learning in informal environments is to develop a full picture of what it means to do and learn science…. In the conventional view, the lone scientist, usually male and usually white, toils in isolation to understand some aspect of the natural world through a series of controlled experiments.”1 The panel of speakers in this session, however, helped illustrate that “science is fundamentally a social enterprise” involving many kinds of people, activities, and approaches. As scientists have done for many years, these speakers engage in informal education activities in the form of community outreach. Traditionally, the outreach took the form of entertaining public demonstrations or hands-on activities with nonscientists. However, that has changed. Two American Chemical Society (ACS) member volunteers, Jeannette Brown, New Jersey ACS Local Section,2 and Ruth Woodall, Nashville ACS Local Section,3 talked about how they conduct outreach efforts with their local communities to put a “face on chemistry.” Catherine Conrad, St. Mary’s University, talked about a growing area of scientific outreach called “citizen science,” which goes beyond fun demos and outreach activities and engages people in real scientific studies in communities throughout the world, such as the work she does with environmental monitoring and management.
Jeannette Brown, whose background is in medicinal chemistry, explained that the ACS North Jersey section, of which she is a long-time member, participates in many outreach activities such as street fairs (Figure 4-1), 4H club activities, and special events at local museums. She noted the new ACS Chemistry Ambassador’s Program, which helps to provide more support to chemists who want to do outreach activities. 4 She said National Chemistry Week (NCW), the signature outreach activity of ACS, takes place every year in late October. Her local section celebrates the event at the Liberty Science Center along with other community groups, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts (Figure 4-2). Brown noted that this year, National Lab Day was also a big event for her section. For most of the events, the ACS provides targeted educational materials that can be distributed to activity participants. Currently, she said local ACS sections are gearing up to celebrate the International Year of Chemistry in 2011.5
Brown stressed the importance of speaking informally about chemistry in layman’s terms. She takes every opportunity, such as in a train or cab, to strike up a conversation with others about being a chemist. She said that “you don’t have to dumb it down, but you have to be able to explain exactly what it is.”
She highlighted a resource her local section created for teachers, a listserve (Yahoo group) called ChemEnthusiast.6 She said that it was started by one of the chemistry teachers in their section and is now available nationwide. On the ChemEnthusiast listserve, teachers typically talk to each other about needs for supplies or other resources, but chemists (nonteachers) are also on the listserve and can respond. The
1National Research Council. 2010. Surrounded by Science. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
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4 Local Outreach Efforts “Never miss an opportunity to show the human side of chemistry.” –Ruth Woodall activities such as street fairs (Figure 4-1), 4H club activities, As noted in Surrounded by Science, “A first step in and special events at local museums. She noted the new ACS understanding how to promote science learning in informal Chemistry Ambassador’s Program, which helps to provide environments is to develop a full picture of what it means to more support to chemists who want to do outreach activities. 4 do and learn science. . . . In the conventional view, the lone She said National Chemistry Week (NCW), the signature out- scientist, usually male and usually white, toils in isolation to reach activity of ACS, takes place every year in late October. understand some aspect of the natural world through a series of controlled experiments.”1 The panel of speakers in this ses- Her local section celebrates the event at the Liberty Science Center along with other community groups, such as the Boy sion, however, helped illustrate that “science is fundamentally Scouts and Girl Scouts (Figure 4-2). Brown noted that this a social enterprise” involving many kinds of people, activities, year, National Lab Day was also a big event for her section. and approaches. As scientists have done for many years, these For most of the events, the ACS provides targeted educational speakers engage in informal education activities in the form of materials that can be distributed to activity participants. Cur- community outreach. Traditionally, the outreach took the form rently, she said local ACS sections are gearing up to celebrate of entertaining public demonstrations or hands-on activities the International Year of Chemistry in 2011.5 with nonscientists. However, that has changed. Two Ameri- can Chemical Society (ACS) member volunteers, Jeannette Brown stressed the importance of speaking informally Brown, New Jersey ACS Local Section,2 and Ruth Woodall, about chemistry in layman’s terms. She takes every opportu- Nashville ACS Local Section,3 talked about how they conduct nity, such as in a train or cab, to strike up a conversation with others about being a chemist. She said that “you don’t have outreach efforts with their local communities to put a “face on chemistry.” Catherine Conrad, St. Mary’s University, talked to dumb it down, but you have to be able to explain exactly what it is.” about a growing area of scientific outreach called “citizen sci- She highlighted a resource her local section created for ence,” which goes beyond fun demos and outreach activities teachers, a listserve (Yahoo group) called ChemEnthusiast.6 and engages people in real scientific studies in communities She said that it was started by one of the chemistry teach- throughout the world, such as the work she does with environ- ers in their section and is now available nationwide. On the mental monitoring and management. ChemEnthusiast listserve, teachers typically talk to each other about needs for supplies or other resources, but chemists NEW JERSEY ACS LOCAL SECTION (nonteachers) are also on the listserve and can respond. The Jeannette Brown, whose background is in medicinal chem- istry, explained that the ACS North Jersey section, of which she is a long-time member, participates in many outreach 4 ACS Chemistry Ambassadors Program: w ww.acs.org/chemistry ambassadors. 1National Research Council. 2010. Surrounded by Science. Washington, 5For more information, see www.chemistry2011.org (accessed December DC: National Academies Press. 21, 2010). 2ACS North Jersey Section: www.njacs.org/index.html. 6For more information, see www.njacs.org/teacher.html#ChemEnthusiasts 3ACS Nashville Section: nashville.sites.acs.org/. (accessed November 27, 2010). 28
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29 LOCAL OUTREACH EFFORTS FIGURE 4-2 Outreach during National Chemistry Week at the FIGURE 4-1 Student volunteers helping make crystalline models, Liberty Science Center. as part of a local section outreach event during Rutgers Day, 2009. SOURCE: Jeannette Brown, ACS North Jersey Local Section. SOURCE: Jeannette Brown, ACS North Jersey Local Section. ChemEnthusiast listserve is also useful for posting information has enjoyed meeting people in the community and network- about events and resources. ing through her volunteer efforts with the ACS. The sections also reach out to media, such as television and Woodall discussed some of the activities of the Nashville newspapers. Members of the New Jersey section appeared on Section in her community. One example is in conjunction Good Morning America, and on another occasion the group with a local museum, the Adventure Science Center, and invited a reporter to a local section meeting talk to gather involves student groups from local universities and colleges background information. Some section members may also (Figure 4-4). The section also collaborates with the Nashville give community presentations and influence policy makers, Earth Day in the Park each year and does outreach activities as Brown has done. “In other words, we are trying to get all at state fairs, after-school programs, and so on. of our members, not just the Jeannette Browns, to become ambassadors,” said Brown. NASHVILLE ACS LOCAL SECTION “Chemistry Ambassador” Ruth Woodall, shown in Figure 4-3, discussed the outreach efforts of the ACS Nashville Local Section. She also briefly spoke about her involvement with the Tennessee Scholars Program.7 Woodall demon- strated an amusing example of how she connects to young people. She introduces chemistry in outreach activities and chemistry classes by using thermochromic “mood” pens; she has the students use the pens to determine who is the “hot- test” to invite to the prom. Woodall explained that such outreach efforts allow her to show a human face of chemistry. She is often recognized in different venues as the “chemistry lady” by people who have seen her give demonstrations and hand out her mood pens. She said that the local section outreach opportunities are a great way for volunteers to become engaged in the commu- nity, as well as for the community to engage in chemistry. She FIGURE 4-3 Chemistry Ambassador Ruth Woodall. 7For more information, see w ww.tennesseescholars.org/ ( accessed SOURCE: Ruth Woodall, ACS Nashville Local Section. December 21, 2010).
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30 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE CITIZEN SCIENCE Catherine Conrad uses the air and water in the environment as a way of engaging people in science. She explained that citizen science is one approach to informal science education. She stressed that the volunteers she works with are people engaged in the process of gathering very credible science. They work with detailed chemical, biological, and geological scientific information. Conrad went into detail about her work in community- based monitoring, a process in which concerned citizens, government agencies, industry, academia, community groups, and local institutions collaborate to monitor, track, and respond to environmental issues of common community concern. This type of citizen science functions on a variety of time and space scales, as shown in Figure 4-5. It is an approach that started in the ornithological program at Cornell University,8 Conrad FIGURE 4-4 Student participating in 2009 NCW event at the Nash- noted, “but one thing we are finding now in citizen science ville Adventure Science Center. is that where it originated in the biological sciences, it is SOURCE: Ruth Woodall, ACS Nashville Local Section. now moving into the chemical sciences. If you find that your particular favorite bird is declining, maybe there is something going on with the air quality. Maybe there is something that is Woodall emphasized that she never misses an opportunity going on if your favorite fish species is deteriorating or declin- for outreach. For example, each year she participates in a ing, maybe it has something to do with the water quality.” back-to-school activity sponsored by the mayor of Nashville. She explained that even though her work might be labeled He opens up the center in which the Predators hockey team “environmental,” the majority of groups she works with are plays for free to about 100 vendors to provide materials for engaged in very hard chemical science, where they utilize the approximately 25,000 students that come through. She quality assurance and quality control in their data collection. hands out pens, pencils, and Periodic Tables, as well as the She stressed the high quality of the work—it is not “Mickey activity guide for the annual NCW program. The activity Mouse science.” guide is printed in midsummer, so it is usually available for Because of the many benefits, it is not difficult to sell citi- kids at the beginning of the school year and just in time for zen science to a lot of people, Conrad explained. The benefits the mayor’s event. include increased environmental democracy, scientific literacy, The Nashville local section has also sponsored a variety and social capital. “You hear about economic capital, but social of contests. One is the Women in Science and Engineering capital evolves as people and neighbors and communities are contest at Middle Tennessee State University. The section working together and interacting with trained scientists,” said also conducts workshops for teachers and gives out prizes, Conrad. In addition, citizens value being included in local such as the Merck Index to teachers at the Tennessee Science issues and addressing real-world problems. Their participation Teachers conference. She said the section typically organizes also enables extensive data collection. a whole day of chemistry at the conference. Conrad said that scientists pay attention to citizen science In addition to the section activities, through the legisla- because of the prospects for extensive data collection, but only tive part of the American Chemical Society, the local sec- “if we can guarantee that someone who is a volunteer can tions in the state have formed the Tennessee Government gather credible data using good protocols, they are trained, they Affairs Committee. She explained that there is a strong bond have some form of certification, and the data can be upheld between all of the seven local sections in Tennessee. Every in an academic peer-reviewed journal.” She said that many of year, they receive a proclamation from the governor of Ten- the groups she has worked with have met or surpassed these nessee for their efforts and have a picture taken with him. criteria. The group also has a significant and growing involvement Because of citizen science, “We now have tentacles out in in the ACS Legislative Action Network, which is an effort the environment that we would never have had . . . [because] of ACS to get its members involved in advocacy at the state not every scientist can be in everybody’s pond or lake or stream and federal levels. or river or back yard,” said Conrad. For example, she showed The Nashville local section also has a weekly public radio program and often has articles published in local newspapers. Woodall said it is also using new media outlets such as Twit- 8For more information, see www.birds.cornell.edu/netcommunity/citsci/ ter and Facebook to increase outreach to the public. about (accessed December 21, 2010).
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31 LOCAL OUTREACH EFFORTS FIGURE 4-5 Citizen Science functions on a variety of temporal and spatial scales. SOURCE: Catherine Conrad, St. Mary’s University. housed inside the Geography Department at St. Mary’s Univer- sity and is a network of community environmental organiza- tions and faculty from St. Mary’s University, as well as many other universities within the Maritime in Canada. She said the network includes chemists, biologists, geologists, atmospheric scientists, green chemists, and others. She and the others in the network try to provide more than information; they “want to try and transform [information] into knowledge that people can then act upon.” Conrad highlighted the network’s website.9 She said that one of the biggest functions of the network is the equipment bank, which operates like a library system, where volun- teers can sign out equipment. For example, there is the YSI 650MDS, which measures temperature, salinity, conductivity, pH, and other properties of water. Conrad noted that the equip- ment available is the same equipment used by the provincial government’s water quality monitoring people. In addition to loaning out the equipment, the network pro- FIGURE 4-6 A dedicated citizen scientist collects water samples in vides training to volunteers to use the devices. It also applies the rain on a Friday night. for funds to purchase and maintain the units. Conrad explained SOURCE: Catherine Conrad, St. Mary’s University. that her student Sara Weston, who was in the workshop audi- ence, is the community-university liaison and is in charge of loaning out the equipment. Conrad noted that the group had a photo of a volunteer taking a water sample at night (Figure been operating the equipment bank for 6 years and has never 4-6). She explained that the water quality of the stream was so had a problem with equipment not being returned. important to the volunteer that he went out on a Friday night during the summer to take a water sample in his neighborhood. Conrad then spoke about the network she founded, the 9For more information, see www.envnetwork.smu.ca/ (accessed December Community-Based Environmental Monitoring Network. It is 21, 2010).
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32 CHEMISTRY IN PRIMETIME AND ONLINE The network has also developed protocols and training training, “if you see someone who has had a heart attack on the manuals for communities. In one example the network col- sidewalk you could give them mouth-to-mouth resuscitation laborated with the government of Western Australia to develop until the paramedics arrive.” Similarly, non-firefighters can be the Nova Scotia Marine Community Monitoring Manual. The trained to volunteer and fight fires; so volunteers should also group in Nova Scotia not only monitors invasive aquatic spe- be trusted and trained to do water chemistry. This program cies, but is now working on ocean acidification. Local fisher- will be endorsed by the Canadian Water Resources Associa- men are monitoring the temperature and pH in the near coastal tion. She also noted that the certification program involved zone. It is very simple stuff, she said, “but they are interested the development of (1) a standardized monitoring tool-kit, (2) in this as well, because if the ocean acidifies, that is going to standardized protocols and a water quality monitoring certi- influence and impact directly their livelihood—they get that.” fication course, and (3) a centralized, coordinated repository She explained that local communities are compelled to take for water quality data. this action, because when they go looking for answers, they According to Conrad there is significant need for high- often don’t find the kind of information they need. There is quality products for citizen science, but existing tools have typically no physician to tell them, as in a checkup for human many problems, such as difficulty of use and a lack of effective health, about their local water quality or habitat conditions. manuals and explanation of basic use. For example, there are However, Conrad explained that there can also be many large and increasing numbers of citizen scientists involved in challenges with citizen science. She encourages people to monitoring water quality each year, such as for World Water Monitoring Day.11 In the United States alone, she said, more understand the purpose of citizen science to ensure they are not monitoring simply for the sake of monitoring. Volunteers than half a million people are involved in monitoring rivers can lose interest in the work, particularly if they are not well in their local areas. In addition, a poll by GlobeScan in 2009 connected with others working on the project or with the users found that 93 percent of people across 15 countries surveyed of the data being collected. Other challenges include lack of said that water pollution is the most important environmental funding, data fragmentation, lack of participant objectivity and issue to them. accuracy, and lack of integration with decision makers. Conrad ended by saying that the network is working to Conrad started this network about a decade ago. At that have maximum reach and impact by (1) establishing accuracy time, community groups would come to her with data on and consistency in the data collected by volunteers, (2) filling slips of paper stored in shoeboxes. She did not understand data gaps in watersheds and areas where existing government why the government was not doing anything with the data. monitoring networks are absent, and (3) designing data col- After talking with government officials, she found that the lection according to government guidelines. The government data being collected were not of interest to the government nor especially likes it when cost savings can be demonstrated. She were they in a usable format for data analysis. Now, she said, added, “We did a study last year [showing] that, in the province community groups understand that they need to do a better job of Nova Scotia alone, we could save them 1.25 million dollars coordinating with different levels of government to ensure that by engaging people in this, at the same time linking people volunteers collect the type of data the government can use—in with the things that they want to do in a meaningful way.” terms of both interest and formatting. Conrad also mentioned the relevance of citizen science OPEN DISCUSSION 3 and community-based water monitoring to green chemistry. She spoke to a few of her colleagues who are experts in green Beginnings chemistry and learned that number 11 of the 12 principles of green chemistry10 is real-time analysis for pollution pre- In the beginning of the discussion, panelists were asked vention. She pointed out that the groups she works with are why they first became involved in outreach efforts. Brown said, actively engaged in real-time water analysis. “I was always an only,” always a minority. She wanted to find In the last few slides of her talk, Conrad talked about efforts other African-American women chemists like herself. She also of the network to expand and grow. It is challenging to build wanted to tell the world what chemistry was all about. She first the capacity and credibility of community-based water quality volunteered to be publicity chair of her section. monitoring efforts and to develop partnerships with govern- Woodall said she was teaching chemistry in Memphis and ment to allow monitoring results to be used in decision mak- was asked to come to a local section meeting as a high school ing. To meet this challenge, the network has devised a strategy chemistry teacher. She was not a member of ACS, but the sec- that includes developing a water certification program similar tion asked her to join to become the public relations (PR) chair. to Red Cross training courses. For example, after Red Cross Eventually she became the PR chair and received training from 10For 11For more information about the 12 principles of green chemistry, see more information, see the World Water Monitoring Day website P. T. Anastas and J. Warner. 1998. Green Chemistry Theory and Practice. at www.worldwatermonitoringday.org/index.html (accessed December 21, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2010).
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33 LOCAL OUTREACH EFFORTS the ACS. She noted that Nancy Blount, who was in attendance, “When we started, there wasn’t as much chemistry being taught her how to be a PR chair. taught, and it wasn’t as relevant, it wouldn’t be as relevant as it Conrad explained that her background had nothing to do is in the curriculum now. So I think over a period of time, our with citizen science originally. She started working with a outreach efforts are being tied in more with the curriculum at small community, and the people had more questions than she school, and the kids are seeing more of it at school, and what could answer. She realized that they needed a support network we are doing is helping more in the classroom than it ever has of people to tap into and she helped create the network. That before,” Woodall added. interaction completely altered the research she was doing. Rogers added that his impression is that there is a lot of She said she shifted from being an “effluvial morphologist” interest from parents, “Even sometimes if the students aren’t to doing the community-based monitoring work. interested, the parents—and I think more today than they might have been in years past—there is a genuine interest there.” Woodall said she thinks that “one of the reasons that parents Science Cheerleader are becoming more interested now is because they are seeing Workshop participant Neil Gussman mentioned the citizen that they are going to have to push their children into careers science effort Science Cheerleader.12 He said the effort was now even more than ever before. They see that need more than created by Darlene Cavalier, a former Philadelphia 76ers’ ever, and they are going to have to push their children earlier. cheerleader, who is now involved with many citizen science They are getting out there and getting more active with their groups. children.” Changes in Parent Attitudes Youth Involvement Mike Rogers asked the speakers how the attitudes of parents Andrea Twiss-Brooks, University of Chicago, asked Con- toward science have changed over time and what the activities rad if there are youth groups or children involved in any of her are that interest students the most. community monitoring efforts. She noted that she saw mostly Woodall said that in the 19 years that she has been involved adults in Conrad’s talk. She said she knew of groups in the in outreach, she has noticed that more and more parents are United States that use youth groups and students for simpler becoming appreciative of the outreach activities the local sec- biological or environmental monitoring. tions offer. Parents, as well as students, are beginning to tie Conrad replied that the pictures she showed did not repre- the outreach activities they do into the curriculum at school. sent all the volunteers she works with. She said that although the majority of groups she works with are typically 18 or 19 years old and older, the network does have a program working 12For more information, see the Science Cheerleader website at http:// with school groups, as well as summer camps. www.sciencecheerleader.com/ (accessed April 13, 2011).