Budding Chemists Celebrate Earth Day through Art & Poetry

Ecology Themed Illustrated Poetry Contest Accepting Submissions

From the yeast and sugar used to rise a loaf of fresh homemade bread, to the microbial life that multiplies around your tea kettle or takes hold of your family during flu season, we have many ecosystems within our own homes (and our own bodies!).

When you think of the word “ecosystem,” does your mind automatically travel outdoors, imagining a nature scene with lots visible life? Sometimes humans forget that our own habitats, our man-made houses, also contain ecosystems of life forms besides ourselves. Drinking unfiltered water contains microbial life. Bacteria thrive in hot water areas such as a tea kettle. In fact, although they don’t pay rent and in fact you can’t even see them. You have several billion microscopic housemates!

There’s no need to overthink these facts or jump to worrisome conclusions. Bacteria is not always harmful and in fact, some of these microscopic beings play helpful roles in our lives. Even though humans have built complex systems of shelter and storage, we are natural beings and we live in a biological world. Your kitchen sink, your computer screen, your bedroom doorknob- each one could potentially be analyzed as an ecosystem.

This year, in honor of Earth Day, the American Chemical Society is challenging young people to rethink their homes as ecosystems, and use this as inspiration for artwork and poetry. What does science have to do with poetry and artwork? A lot, actually. Poets, artists and scientists are all highly inquisitive observers, seeking to make sense of the world around them, whether they do it with words, images, experiments, or some combination of the three.

You can foster this curious and creative outlook in your children by encouraging their participation in this nationwide illustrated poetry contest. Participants between kindergarten and 12th grade are invited to write a poem of no more than forty words, incorporating the theme: “The Great Indoors – Your Home’s Ecosystem.” Poems must be in one of the following forms: haiku limerick, ode, ABC poem, free verse, end rhyme or blank verse. This interdisciplinary contest can get children interested in new topics or hobbies and challenge them to look at the world around them differently. The age range for participants, kindergarten through 12th grade, is relatively inclusive. This contest could encourage conversations among siblings or household experiments by the whole family!

Participants must submit their entry by April 25, 2016. Poems will be judged by The Connecticut Valley Section of the American Chemical Society (ACS) and winners will advance to the national contest. For more information and to see entries from last year’s illustrated poem contest, visit the American Chemical Society website. Send entries to Dr. Sharon M. Palmer, Amherst Regional High School, 21 Mattoon Street, Amherst, MA or email them to palmers@arps.org.

[Photo credit: (cc) dima barsky]

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