Tips for Improving
IN CASE YOU HAVEN’T BEEN told recently, let me be the first to remind you: you are awesome. You are an undergraduate student dedicating yourself to the study of chemistry
so that you can go on to solve challenging problems and improve people’s lives.
You are unfazed by advanced organic
synthesis; you’re a member of the largest
scientific society on planet earth, and you
have that certain je ne sais quoi.
where. And, unfortunately, students
across the country don’t get enough
exposure to chemistry at an early age.
Whether you are a seasoned pro or
are just beginning to consider the possibility of volunteering your time in a local
classroom, here are five tips that will help
you to maximize the impact of your visit.
You’re kind of a big deal
But here is something you might not
know: no one — not even your mom —
thinks you are cooler than do elementary
school students. Simply by virtue of being
yourself, when you enter an elementary
school classroom, you are at the peak of
So why am I telling you all of this?
Well, it’s because your status as the cool-est person alive makes you uniquely
qualified to serve as an ambassador for
science in early education. Science is
already exciting and fun, but when it’s
presented by you, it reaches new heights
in the minds of young students every-
When you are choosing
demonstrations, disposing of
waste materials, and addressing
students, safety must always be
your first priority.
Be sure to choose demonstrations that are safe.
Collaborate with the teacher to make
sure that any special reagents you bring
into the school are allowed, and that
all necessary paperwork has been completed.
To ensure safety, plan to take all waste
from your visit with you when you leave
the classroom. This will prevent students
from having any contact with possibly
Make sure to bring enough goggles
with you for each of the students, the
teacher, and (of course) your team. This
will keep the students safe, and it will
also help to drive home the idea that
students should wear goggles when
they are conducting experiments.
By modeling this behavior,
you’ll also be increasing the
coolness factor exponentially.
While any volunteer
effort has the potential to be
impactful, you can maximize
the success of your visit by
coordinating with the teacher
of the classroom you’ll be visiting before your arrive.
Before your presentation, it’s a good
idea to talk about what the teacher might
like you to cover, as well as what you
feel comfortable presenting. You can
also discuss the layout of the classroom,
whether or not you’ll have access to a
sink or electrical outlets, and how many
student admirers you should expect.
Knowing the exact number of students
you’ll be presenting to will help you
to make arrangements for the proper
amount of materials you’ll need and the
number of student members from your
chapter you’ll need on your team to give
It’s also important to remember that
you will be working with the teacher, not
displacing him or her. Remembering that
the teacher is your partner is important
in making your visit a successful one. The
teacher is the expert when it comes to
classroom management … and you will
be the expert when it comes to science.
By working together, you can make sure
that students don’t get sidetracked by
playing with the slime they’ve just made
and that they’re able to focus on the next
activity or important announcement.