Everyone knows about science fairs, right? Well the ChemFriends Expo is a science fair with a twist. Instead of students demonstrating experiments to adults, it's the adults who are under the microscope and the students who get to watch, learn, and participate.
ChemFriends was launched in 1997 in Gonzales Louisiana to raise the awareness and interest of science and chemistry in students and the community through the collaborative effort of local chemical companies, educators, government, and business professionals. The Expo typically contains sixteen different 'booths' of demonstrations where groups of students spend about 10 minutes listening to presenters and participating in several hands on experiments. Making silly putty, slime, lava lamps, learning about pH and indicators, and freezing things with liquid nitrogen are only a few of the wonders of science students engage at this event.
Every 7th grader in Ascension Parish (Public, Private, and Home School) is scheduled/invited to attend on one of two days and all schools in Ascension Parish are active participants. The Ascension Parish School Board coordinates the logistics for the students who get really really fired up about the 'field trip'. The grand finale is community night where for 2 hours (5-7pm the second night of the event) the doors are open for the general public to attend with no admission (anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult). Each year around 1,800 students attend the event and another 700 people visit for community night. In it's many years of existence ChemFriends has helped to broaden the chemistry and science knowledge of tens of thousands of people. We are starting to see several people who attended many years ago come back to our event as members of local companies, crediting ChemFriends as an inspiration for their interest in chemistry.
During the 'day' portion of the event we host Ascension Parish students only. Since this is an event under the guidance of the Ascension Parish School Board schools, schools outside of Ascension are not eligible to participate, however anyone is invited and encouraged to attend community night. Many teachers use community night as a source of 'extra credit' for students to attend (this varies from teacher to teacher).
The main purpose of the event is to raise awareness and interest in chemistry in our students and in our community. The event is FREE, covered by member fees from the organizations participating in the event. Don't get the wrong idea though, as this is NOT an industrial show where companies promote their products, or even a job fair for that matter. Only during community night are the participating organizations allowed to hand out anything to event patrons. The major focus of this event is enhancing science education. Reading about chemistry textbooks and listening to lectures can often leave even the most earnest student board, but seeing chemistry in action takes a whole different avenue to learning.
Experiments from the event are offered to Ascension Parish school teachers so the demonstrations may be reproduced in school laboratories. In addition many of our participating companies offer "road shows" which visit the schools to talk about science and chemistry and perform experiments. You can view many of the sources for our experiments on our resources page. We do not offer the demonstrations to the general public, however many of them may be found within the links under our resources page.
Event surveys distributed to educators, participating companies/organizations and the feedback has been nothing but positive and the Ascension Parish Council as declared ChemFriends as one of the most successful outreach programs in the area. In 2002 we saw the inaugural group of students come back to volunteer as high school student guides and by 2007 many of those first students graduated college. Each year we rely on local high school seniors to help guide the 6th graders through the event. Senior classes literally bang on the door to volunteer for the event. The seniors remember when they attended the event six years earlier, but more importantly they remembered what they saw and what they learned. These days, we are starting to see several of those original ChemFriends attendees working in our local industries and even as teachers in our schools.
The ChemFriends Expo is held either the first or second Wednesday and Thursday each November (depending on conflicts) at the Gonzales Civic Center on 219 South Irma Avenue (Click Here for Map).
Thanks to many many people who help make this event a shining example of excellence in Ascension Parish.
We appreciate the support!
We held an abbreviated event in February of 2018 for a few public schools, but plan on holding our normal full event in the November of 2018 . Check back with us in a few months for more news.