NCW 2022 Fabulous Fibers: The Chemistry of Fabrics
Find educational resources for this year's National Chemistry Week theme and other materials for your event, including outreach activities, activities, articles, and videos.
Explore how fibers become fabrics and their amazing properties. Learn about natural fibers as well as synthetic fibers invented by people and discover surprising differences in how the fabrics are made.
Hands-on Activity: Are You Stronger Than A Cotton Ball?
Are you stronger than a cotton ball? (PDF)
Deconstruct a piece of yarn and unroll a cotton ball to discover what it takes to turn loose fibers into strong yarn.
Hands-on Activity: Dyeing to Color Fabric
Dyeing to Color Fabric
Which fiber types will absorb Kool-Aid dye the best: nature-made fibers such as cotton or human-made fibers such as polyester?
Elementary & Middle School (Ages 5-13)
From Adventures in Chemistry (Grades K-5)
- D is for Drop
Find out why water drops do not stick to Delilah’s raincoat. Use this property to build a raceway for a water drop and guide it from start to finish.
- Diapers: The Inside Story
This activity focuses on sodium polyacrylate but can include the fabrics that make disposable diapers so effective at absorbing wetness while keeping babies feeling dry. Compare the pros and cons of both disposable diapers and reusable cotton diapers.
From Inquiry in Action
- Keeping Warm in the Cold
Kindergarten students make a coat for a cup of warm water to find out if insulation makes a difference and understand why a coat will keep them feeling warm in cold weather.
- Designing a Shade Structure
Kindergarten students make a simple structure that casts a shadow. Then, students compare the temperature inside and outside the shadow.
- Designing an Absorbency Test
First or second graders compare four different materials to find out which is the most absorbent. Students discover that absorbency is a characteristic property of a material.
UNTOLD: Science Stories from Earth and Beyond is a collection of 10 videos containing science stories and demonstrations to show middle school students how science helps us learn about our world.
Cellulose: From Trees to Explosives
Cellulose is a polymer found in trees and cotton to provide structure. People use cellulose to make paper, viscose fabric, cellophane wrap, and explosive nitrocellulose. The video also tells the story of the accidental invention of guncotton. A chemist spilled some chemicals and wiped them up with his wife’s cotton apron. Then he hung the apron to dry near the stove. It exploded!
High School (Ages 14-18)
- Activity: T-Shirt Chromatography (High School)
- Activity: Designing an Effective Respiratory Cloth Mask (High School)
- Lab: How Fast Can We Remove Tough Stains? (High School)
- Lesson Plan: Engineering a Vehicle (High School)
- Video: This Sandwich will Save Your Life in an Arc Flash (High School)
- Activity: Tie Dye (Middle & High School)
- Lab: Applying the Scientific Method to Stain Removal (Middle & High School)
- Lab: Stains, Stains Go Away (Elementary & Middle school)
AACT Chemistry Solutions Article:
- How to Make Fashion Sustainable, April 2021
- Indigo: The “Blue” in Blue Jeans, February 2018
- No-Hit Wonder! D3O, February 2017
- Dirty Business: Laundry Comes Clean with Chemistry, December 2012
- (Un)Stuck on You, October 2012
- New Materials for Better Athletes, October 2008
- Super Fibers, February 2006
- Spider Silk—Spinning a Strong Thread, February 2001
- Fabric of Steel, October 1999
National Chemistry Week Lesson Plan Contest
AACT is excited to offer a content writing opportunity for K–12 teachers of chemistry! Participants should submit an idea for an exciting and unique National Chemistry Week themed lesson plan related to "The Chemistry of Fabrics." AACT will select one winning lesson plan for the K–8 grade level and one for the high school grade level. Both winning lessons will be published in the AACT Classroom Resource Library and featured on social media, and the teachers will each earn $250 and a NCW goody bag! Submit your idea by September 19th. Learn more and enter today!
More Resources for Educators
- Celebrating Chemistry
Celebrating Chemistry is a publication designed to engage and educate children (grades 4-6) in the basic principles of chemistry and is available in both English and Spanish.
- Meg A. Mole Career Profiles
Read all about Meg's many adventures! These interviews are an excellent resource for teachers to inform their students about the activities chemists perform every day. Need to explain a mole? Check out our “Meet the Moles!” web page.
ChemMatters is a magazine that helps high school students find connections between chemistry and the world around them. Check out our article on Laura Hoch, a material innovation chemist for Patagonia.
- Journal of Chemical Education
A journal for chemical educators featuring activities and articles.
- Science Safety Guidelines
Consult the Science Safety Guidelines to incorporate safe practices into your teaching curriculum.
- National Historic Chemical Landmarks
Learn about special places in chemical history, and download lesson plans for engaging classrooms. Check out the following Chemical Landmarks: Wallace Carothers and the Development of Nylon, Cotton Products Research: Durable Press and Flame Retardant Cotton, Development of Tide Synthetic Detergent