Educational Resources

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.

National Chemistry Week logo with test tube

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!

Celebrating Chemistry (Ages 9-12)

High School (Ages 14-18)

AACT Chemistry Solutions Article: 
From ChemMatters
For ChemClubs 

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 19thLearn 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
    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. 


General Interest Resources

Find NCW-themed resources for college students and adults.

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