This weekend a colleague and I will participate in Expanding Your Horizons, a program that encourages young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. We are running an activity for 11-16 year olds that involves grinding up spinach leaves, extracting the organic molecules, and separating different colored pigment molecules using thin-layer chromatography. We made this handout to show them what they'll be looking at. This is how I imagine it going down. We explain to them that spinach is green because of all of these colorful molecules that are made by spinach plants. They say, "Wow! We see colors because of chemistry? That's awesome. But my physics teacher says that seeing colors is optics and that has to do with physics." "Nope," we say, "Your teacher doesn't know what he or she is talking about. Chemistry is all that matters." "Oh, okay. So do molecules like these make strawberries red, and blueberries blue?" "You bet!" We say. They get excited. The wheels start turning. One of them says, "If molecules make them look a certain way, are there molecules that make them taste a certain way, and feel a certain way?" "Yes, and yes." We say. Another one says, "Are there molecules in my t-shirt that make it this color?" "Yes, synthetic dyes are molecules!". Them: "Is chemistry everywhere?!?!" Us: "It's everywhere!!!" Them: "YOU ARE BLOWING OUR MINDS HOW CAN WE LEARN MORE?!?!?!?" Us: "STUDY CHEMISTRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
Or, something like that.