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American Chemical Society


Sylvia A. Ware
1155 Sixteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20020


While the title of this presentation may seem flippant, it is not intended as such. Programs of the staff Education Division begin with materials for early readers; include services and products for students and teachers at the pre-college and college levels; and continue to provide support throughout the professional life of the career chemist. (Note that this is not the same group as the member Division of Chemical Education, Inc.) Our mission statement summarizes the range of our concerns as follows:

The Division will support the development and implementation of programs that bring the wonder, excitement, opportunities, and challenges of modern chemistry to students of all ages, in order to:
All of these programs can be related to a number of the ACS Strategic Thrusts, in particular:

  • ACS will provide programs and services to improve the scientific litera and interest of students.

  • ACS will increase student participation in the Society.

  • ACS will provide programs and activities to facilitate the career development of chemical professionals.

  • The Division has a staff of about 35 individuals, depending on the number of projects active at any given time Most professional members of the staff have taught chemistry and related sciences at the program level of their current responsibilities; many have also worked in industry. In addition, anywhere from 10 to 40 chemical educators may be employed on a sub-contractual basis depending on the number of grants we have been awarded by external agencies.

    Oversight of Division programs is provided by the ACS membership through the Society Committee on Education (SOCED). This committee consists of two general policy subcommittees, Pre-college Science, and College Chemistry and Continuing Education. Neither of these committees is responsible for day-to-day management of any specific activity, but each provides general guidance on program priorities and directions for new products and services. There are also two program subcommittees providing direction for the Chemistry Olympiads and the Two-year Colleges programs.

    The Education Division is divided into two main departments, Academic Programs, which contains three offices addressing primary, secondary, and tertiary education, and Continuing Education, with two offices for short courses and media-bases courses. Across these organizational divisions, the ACS Education Division programs cover four general areas:

  • curriculum and materials development
  • professional development
  • student populations
  • institutional programs.

  • These programs are funded through a variety of mechanisms. Some are supported by a fraction of the ACS member-dues payment; others are supported by grants from federal government agencies, chemical companies and foundations; while some generate their own revenues from sales and registration fees.

    Curriculum and Materials Development

    The Education Division has been involved in the "science and technology literacy for all" movement for many years. This involvement developed from a concern that, at that time (the early 1980s), only 30% of high school students were electing to take one-year of chemistry. Many of these students expressed a dislike of chemistry after this limited exposure, complaining that courses were irrelevant, boring, and difficult. At the same time, we were concerned that the symptoms of chemophobia exhibited by many in the general public (the products of our school systems) could lead to the making of public policy decisions related to chemistry that were based on fear, and not on knowledge.

    To address these associated problems, we conceived of a course that would convince our students of the relevance of chemistry to their own lives, and prepare them to become future decision-makers on a variety of societal issues involving chemistry in particular, and science in general. Not many students will become working chemists, only a small percentage more will become any kind of scientist or engineer, yet all will become voting citizens. Many of the students will become professionals in non-science areas - the law, politics, journalism, etc.--all areas that require some understanding of the nature and contributions of modern chemistry.

    Our approach to developing a "chemistry for citizenship" course was shaped not only by these concerns, but by our knowledge of how chemistry is introduced at the pre-college level in other countries. Most countries do not concentrate on introducing chemistry through its mathematics, as many traditional U.S. courses tend to do, but through its phenomena, through its applications, through its concepts. Organic chemistry, industrial chemistry, and environmental chemistry are typically part of the chemistry syllabus in most secondary schools in most developing nations.

    At the time we began to develop our first chemistry textbook, ChemCom (Chemistry in the Community), there was much general discussion within science education circles on exactly what should be contained in so-called "science literacy courses." The view which we developed at ACS does not depart significantly from views now expressed, in different wording, but echoing the same general outline, in the National Science Education Standards developed under the aegis of the National Research Council (NRC, 1996), and the Benchmarks for Science Literacy developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS, 1993). Not only ChemCom, but all of the courses that were later developed by the Education Division, include the following content:

    ChemCom, Chemistry in the Community (ACS, 1997a), is now being taught as a college prepatory course to nearly 25% of the 50% of U.S. high school students who are now taking high school chemistry. The third edition was released this year; and next year we will begin the development of the fourth edition. A case study of ChemCom development and implementation was one of the eight U.S.innovations in science, mathematics, and technology included in the study of reform conducted under the aegis of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Raizen and Britton, 1997). There are now Russian and Japanese translations and a Spanish adaptation of the text available.

    The acceptance of ChemCom led to the development of other courses, developed from the same philosophy, and using the same approach: Chemistry in Context (Schwartz et al, 1996), a one semester textbook for non-science majors at the college level; and FACETS (ACS, 1995), an integrated science and technology program for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. Still under development is SciTeKS, a course based on the work of technicians in various science-related industries, for those high school students unlikely to enter a four-year college or university. The first year of a two-year field test is now underway using the SciTeKS modules in 11th and 12th-grade classes. Finally, the Chemistry in a Biological Context project is developing a year-long course for college science majors to take as an alternative to the traditional General Chemistry course.

    In developing all our courses, we have selected the chemistry and other sciences to include based on the need for students to know chemistry in order to become problem solvers, and decision-makers within a particular context (see Table 1). For ChemCom and Chemistry in Context the driving context is provided by societal issues related to chemistry. Students are first introduced to a chemistry-related issue, for example, water pollution, use of natural resources, nutrition and health. They begin to realize that, in order to approach the issue and eventually solve the problem presented, they will need to understand chemistry. They then learn the chemistry and, finally, apply their chemistry knowledge to decision-making situations. Most importantly, they also learn that there are economic costs associated with resolving most issues.

    For FACETS, directed toward a younger group of students, the context is provided by answering questions related to the students' curiosity about "how things work." These "things" include the students' own bodies, their school environment, the food they eat, the worlds they live and play in. Each unit takes about three weeks to teach, and can be used to replace more traditional treatments of the same topics that are included in the middle school syllabus. The focus of each unit is to get the students to ask scientific questions about the world, and answer these questions using the same thought processes and methods of "real-world" scientists. For example, students conduct a field study of animal behavior in the wild by recording, analyzing, and interpreting student behavior in the cafeteria at lunch time.

    For SciTeKS students, some of whom may be intending a career as a technician in the chemical process industries, the context is the day-to-day work of the laboratory technician or plant operator. Each unit of SciTeKS models a virtual workplace: a soda pop bottling plant, a waste water treatment facility, a petroleum cracking unit, a criminal forensics laboratory, etc. Each virtual workplace will be modeled on a CD-ROM and through classroom laboratory activities. There will also be a video to accompany each unit. Like FACETS and ChemCom, SciTeKS was funded by the National Science Foundation.

    The Chemistry in a Biological Context course will cover most of the content expected in a General Chemistry course, but there will be some omissions. Since the course is still being developed, there are content decisions yet to be made. The selection of the content, the order in which concepts are sequenced, and the range of examples illustrating principles is influenced by the fact that a large proportion of the students in the General Chemistry class have career goals related to the biosciences and medicine.

    Table 1
    ACS Courses

    Course of Study Released Target Student Context
    Chemistry in the
    Community (ChemCom)
    1998, 1993,1997 High school,college-bound Citizen decision making
    Chemistry in Context (CiC) 1994, 1996 College, non-science majors Citizen decision making
    FACETS 1995 Middle school How things work
    SciTeKS on-going School-to-work Technician problem-solving
    Chemistry in a Biological Context (CBC) ongoing College, science major Science careers

    In addition to these text books, ACS also publishes a hands-on, physical science magazine, WonderScience, for middle school students. At present we produce eight issues a year, with each issue keyed to the National Science Education Standards (NSES). A compilation of The Best of WonderScience (ACS, 1997b) is also available.

    ChemMatters magazine for high school students is published four times a year, and is also available compiled on a CD-ROM. We are currently examining the economic feasibility of placing both magazines on our web pages, where they would be available free for all. Whether we would continue to produce the magazines in paper form would depend on the reactions of our current subscribers.

    The Early Reader Series provides hands-on activities for small children to do with their parents. The first in the series, Apples, Bubbles, and Crystals, Your Science ABCs (Bennett and Kessler, 1996) was the first of all our books to be distributed through commercial bookstores nationwide. The book is also available from ACS and from amazon.com. The second in the series, Sunlight, Skyscrapers and Soda Pop :The Everwhere You Look Science Book (Bennett and Kessler, 1997)) has just been released by McGraw-Hill, and should be available through your local bookstore, or again from amazon.com. Two additional books are being planned.

    Finally, we have just published Chemistry in the National Science Education Standards (Ware, 1997), which is a reader and resource manual for high school teachers. The book will ,we hope, clarify some of the confusion being expressed about the level of chemistry implied in the National Standards.

    Professional Development

    Under this category I am including both workshops for teachers, and continuing education courses for chemical scientists and engineers. We consider the provision of extensive teacher professional development as being key to both the acceptance of our curriculum materials, and to a general improvement in the quality of chemistry instruction in our schools. Teacher professional development is important, because much of the content in our courses may be new to the teachers in the classroom. Beyond that, the role of the teacher in the classroom is changing from the old-style of authority figure to "manager" of the students' learning. This move from the teacher-centered classroom to the student-as learner involves teachers in new styles of teaching and assessing learning.

    Operation Chemistry was funded by the National Science Foundation to bring chemistry workshops to elementary and middle school teachers (grades 4-8). Initially we developed 12 workshop manuals. Then, for four summers, we held three to four week workshops to "train the trainers." Each workshop team consists of one lead elementary teacher, a lead high school teacher, a college teacher or school district administrator, and an industrial chemist. There are now some 87 teams available to conduct workshops nationwide. Since our funding has now ended, we will not be developing any more teams. However, the existing teams are finding local funds to continue the outreach aspects of the program.

    The FACETS program has some funds to support teacher professional development. One or two-day FACETS workshops are being held on request at a rate of about two to three workshops per month.

    We have held summer workshops for ChemCom teacher development every year since 1988. The original focus was on developing lead teachers to run "multiplier workshops regionally. The lead teachers now run anywhere from seven to ten workshops a year, each lasting about a week in length. Also, through an arrangement with UNESCO, we have been hosting educators from overseas at these workshops for some time. In 1998, we anticipate 10 guests from overseas supported by UNESCO. We have also run teacher development workshops in Russia, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia, and Mexico, again in cooperation with UNESCO.

    Professional development is also provided for users of Chemistry in Context. Workshops have varied from one half day to two and one half days in length. We have held workshops at ACS national meetings, the Biennial Chemical Education Conferences, the Two-Year College Conferences, and the International Conference on Chemical Education. Also, by special request we have provided faculty workshops for state university systems, e.g., in Pennsylvania.

    The continuing education programs for mid-career chemists tend to attract a predominately industrial audience, around 5,00 chemists a year. ACS Short Courses are one- to five-day seminars on a broad range of chemistry topics that range in level from basic survey courses to state-of-the-art presentations from internationally renowned researchers. The shorter courses use a lecture format, while the longer ones are laboratory based. Courses are held nationwide, at ACS national and regional meetings, and at other nationally significant conferences. We also hold short courses at industrial sites as requested by individual companies. Our most popular courses include analytical chemistry topics, polymer chemistry, molecular modeling, and laboratory-based biotechnology courses.

    We also offer about seven satellite TV seminars a year, covering education, cutting edge chemistry, and regulatory issues. These two to three -hour broadcasts include a live audio question-and-answer session involving the participants. The number of sites participating varies significantly with the topic presented, varying from 20 to 400 sites. Some sites have had as many as 150 registrants.

    Most recently, we are exploring the feasibility of running courses over the Internet. The first such course on statistical interpretation of laboratory data will be available shortly. If this format proves popular, we will expand our offerings.

    Student Populations

    Current student programs focus on high school and undergraduates.

    The Education Division runs the U.S. Chemistry Olympiad program through the ACS local section network. Each year, some 140 or so of our local sections conduct a preliminary screening of around 10,000 high school chemistry students through local examinations, science fairs, school grades, teacher recommendations, etc. Each local section, choosing its own means of selection, nominates the best students to take the national examination developed by the SOCED Olympiad Committee. Nearly 1,000 students take the national examination. The top 20 students attend a 10-day study camp run by the U.S. Air Force Academy. The top four students at the camp represent the United States in the international competition. The aim of the U.S. competition is NOT to have our students selected first in the world, but o encourage excellence in chemistry, and recognition of this excellence, among as many students as possible

    Project SEED is a career program for economically disadvantaged high school students, who are paid for working as research assistants for eight- to ten-weeks in the summer at research laboratories in academia, industry, and government. These students are not necessarily gifted students but are capable of achieving if given the encouragement to do so. We now support some 400 Project SEED students a year, some of whom are participating in a second year in the program. A recent longitudinal survey of our alumni has shown that the majority of SEED graduates go on to college and receive a degree, not necessarily in chemistry, but usually in one of the sciences. More than half are female, about two-thirds are from ethnic minority groups. We also administer a limited number of college scholarships for former SEED students.

    Our Student Affiliates program is a professional development program for undergraduate students who are majoring in chemistry. In addition to providing career guidance and a range of professional development opportunities, we hope that these students, when they graduate, will become full members of the ACS. Some 7,000 undergraduates per year become ACS student affiliates. They are organized into college chapters under the guidance of a faculty member who becomes the chapter advisor. While we have 850 chapters chartered, probably less than 500 are very active.

    Students receive their own magazine (in Chemistry), a subscription to Chemical & Engineering News, reduced rates for ACS journals, and career materials. We also organize the student program at the ACS national meetings, a program which includes a poster session featuring undergraduate research; symposia on specific areas of chemistry; leadership training seminars; workshops on resume writing and interview techniques; and, of course, social events for the students.

    The faculty advisors receive a manual on chapter operations. Some attend faculty advisor workshops at ACS headquarters and at ACS regional meetings. Since we recognize the important nurturing role played by these faculty, we also send letters to department chairs and presidents of tertiary institutions commending the work of their faculty with student affiliates. The chapters are eligible for innovative grants, and awards for outstanding performance.

    For undergraduates, we also maintain a database of experiential programs in chemistry on our Web pages (start at www.acs.org). This data base of internships. co-op opportunities, and summer jobs is updated yearly, and was developed for the Web with support from the Sloan Foundation. This database also includes some experiential opportunities for graduates. The Sloan Foundation is also funding a career video, CD-ROM, and other chemistry career materials both in print and for the Web, primarily for undergraduates, although again some material will be of interest to graduate students.

    Two new student programs are under development. The Education Division is developing a center for children at ACS ChemCenter on the Internet. This site will be changed monthly (we hope!) and should go live within three months. We are also developing a virtual chemistry club for high school students that will be placed on the ACS Education web pages (which have just been redesigned). We also plan to offer a question and answer desk (primarily for students?) within the next six months.

    Institutional Programs

    The Chemical Technology Program Approval Service (CTPAS) approves chemistry-based technology programs which meet ACS guidelines. The approval signifies to industry that a college's program has met standards of quality similar to those of the most effective programs in the country. The Service is unique, nurturing applicant schools through a three-phase approval process consisting of program review, creation of a program development plan, and implementation of the plan. Currently, there are six ACS approved chemistry-based technician programs. The Guidelines are derived from the Voluntary Industry Standards for the chemical process industries, also developed by the ACS Education Division.

    Among the many other Division activities that support technician education are our efforts to develop and promote industry standards for technicians in the chemical process industry. The report, Foundations for Excellence in the Chemical Process Industry (Hofstader and Chapman, 1997), which was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, presents the results of three years of work to identify skill standards for both chemical laboratory technicians and process technicians. Our present efforts are concentrating on (a)developing curriculum models to help implement these standards, especially in two-year college programs, and (b) catalyzing the initiation and subsequent development of local alliances for technician education involving educational institutions and industry.

    The College Chemistry Consultants Service (C3S) provides consultants (from a pool of chemists and chemical educators) to colleges and universities to advise on issues such as curriculum development, laboratory safety, ACS chemistry program approval, industry and community partnerships, as well as undergraduate and graduate research programs. Consultants' have provided recommendations for hundreds of institutions throughout the country, corfirming previous analyses, suggesting areas for further review, and providing new solutions for existing problems.


    Clearly, we are very busy across a very wide range of age levels and concerns. In addition, there are quite a few programs within the Education Division not described above including videos, career materials, policy documents, newsletters, etc. Every attempt is being made to target our programs in areas where needs are not being met. We are limited in our activities more by the availability of funds than by a lack of ideas, or problems that need to be addressed.

    Our main challenge for the future will be to ensure that the programs already in place continue to flourish. There also are a number of areas where we need more activity, for example, high school teacher professional development, two-year colleges, graduate school. We also need to learn how to use the Internet to provide services to all our clientele. We would welcome your ideas and suggestions for ways in which we could improve our programs. Please feel free to contact me at s_ware@acs.org.


    AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science). 1993. Benchmarks for Science Literacy. New York: Oxford University Press.

    ACS (American Chemical Society). 1997a. ChemCom: Chemistry in the Community (3rd ed). Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

    ACS (American Chemical Society). 1997b. The Best of Wonder Science. Albany, New York: Delmar Publishing.

    ACS (American Chemical Society). 1995. FACETS: Foundations and Challenges to Encourage Technology -Based Science. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company.

    Bennet, A.T. and J.H. Kessler. 1997. Sunlight, Skyscrapers and Soda Pop: The Everywhere You Look Science Book. New York: Learning Triangle Press. McGraw Hill.

    Bennet, A.T. and J.H. Kessler. 1996. Apples, Bubbles and Crystals: Your Science ABCs. New York: Learning Triangle Press. McGraw Hill.

    Hofstader, R. and K. Chapman. 1997c. Foundations for Excellence in the Chemical Process Industries. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.

    NRC (National Research Council). 1996. National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

    Raizen, S.A. and E.D. Britton (Eds.). 1997. Bold Ventures, Volume 2 Case Studies of U.S. Innovations in Science Education. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

    Schwartz, A. T. et al. 1996. Chemistry in Context (2nd Ed.). Dubuque, Iowa: William C. Brown/McGraw Hill.

    Ware, S.A. (Ed.). 1997. Chemistry in the National Science Education Standards. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society.

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