Under the leadership of Greglynn Gibbs, chemistry research support technician and lab manager at Penn State Berks, the Penn State Berks Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society has partnered with the Lehigh Valley Section of the American Chemical Society (LVACS) to offer an interactive, virtual after-school chemistry enrichment program for middle and high school students via Zoom.
The weekly program, titled the Lehigh Valley After School Chemistry Partnership Program, is coordinated by Gibbs, who is also the LVACS membership chair. Since early February, the program has reached out to students in schools and organizations across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts. It is open to after-school clubs, homeschool associations, scout troops, and individual students. Registration is required to ensure the online safety of participating students.
As an adviser to the Penn State Berks Student Chapter of the American Chemical Society, Gibbs enlisted Berks students to get involved with the initiative. The Berks ACS Chapter has assisted with planning, promotion, and preparation of experiment kits. In addition, the Penn State Berks Bookstore is supporting the program by sponsoring the science-themed National Science Day book club event.
“I became involved with this project because LVACS secretary Nigel Sanders saw the opportunity to collaborate with LVACS Project SEED Chair Jeremy Heyman to develop something new that would address the need for outreach, share the resources and opportunities for students provided by ACS, as well as provide a unique, fun, educational experience for students interested in the sciences, more specifically chemistry,” states Gibbs.
“Being involved in this program benefits Berks students by providing a way to continue outreach to the surrounding community, and it offers the opportunity for professional development through collaboration on and contribution to a large project. These types of opportunities provide students with valuable experiences beyond the campus.”
“This program is in its second month of providing students with an opportunity to make new friends while meeting and connecting with scientists and college STEM students from across the vibrant, diverse chemistry community,” explains Gibbs.
During the program’s first month, students had the opportunity to learn about conducting chemistry research in college, summer research opportunities for high schoolers through the ACS Project SEED Program, and STEM pioneers in celebration of Black History Month. They also participated in an online science movie watch party, watched demonstrations, and performed guided online chemistry experiments with experts from local industry and academe. Future programming includes more themed experiments and guest speakers who will talk to students about life after college and entering the professional world.
The Lehigh Valley After School Chemistry Partnership Program will conclude on April 21, 2021 with a special science-themed book club in celebration of National Science Day. This program is funded by the American Chemical Society (ACS) Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect Grant.