Serve Society With Your Specialty

An organization creates free education tools for the sake of science.

What's the great idea? Provide free educational products for the public.

Who's doing it? American Chemical Society

What's involved? For years, ACS published Wonder Science magazine eight times a year and distributed it to the public and teachers for classroom use. "The idea was to target third through sixth grade," says Jim Kessler, manager, office of K-8 science for ACS. "And the process of doing science and understanding the world around you was the early basis of these publications that we did. It still is, but now we're much more involved in getting these activities in the hands of teachers."

While ACS still creates science activities for students to try in the classroom, it has moved from print publications into online resources, easily accessible to nonmembers and rich with interactive tools. "We took Wonder Science activities and made a place on the web called Science for Kids. We create activities and teaching resources in a lot of different forms now, but everything we do now is delivered via the web for free," says Kessler. "No registration, no passwords. Just come and get it."

Kessler says that his staff of three works to get materials that are inexpensive and easy for teachers to store and will test experiments in a lab at ACS offices until they create a lesson plan easy for teachers to understand and for students to do. Once the lesson is created, it's not the end of the process. "We're always trying to add better explanations or better illustrations or more content," says Kessler. "These are long projects. The one we're working on now, the Middle School Chemistry Unit, has been in development for two years." [Also see ACS's "Inquiry in Action" site.]

What are people saying? Kessler says teachers appreciate the inexpensive and reliable content provided by ACS and how it helps them explain science to students. ACS doesn't gain new members from the publications, and the production isn't cheap, but the products have garnered goodwill for the association. Kessler says that ACS creates educational publications as a service to society and says he feels lucky that other groups within his organization can support his team's efforts and help teachers. "It's sort of hard for teachers because they're given standards … but they're often not given the actual way to accomplish them. So [we provide] as concrete a lesson as we can give teachers to accomplish what they need."