BOONE, N.C. — Each October, the American Chemical Society promotes outreach activities highlighting the value of chemistry in everyday life during National Chemistry Week. In celebration of this year's National Chemistry Week, Dr. Claudia Cartaya-Marin, professor in Appalachian State University's Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences, brought an interactive chemistry activity to 20 children at Hickory's Centro Latino. The event was sponsored by the Office of Diversity.
Incorporated in 1999, Centro Latino is a community resource center led by local Hispanic leaders for the Hispanic/Latine community of Catawba and surrounding counties. The organization offers a variety of services, including educational programming for Spanish and non-Spanish speaking adults, immigration services, and cultural enrichment opportunities for children and families.
For the workshop, Dr. Cartaya-Marin worked with students enrolled in Centro Latino's Abriendo Puertas ("Opening Doors"), a tutoring program focused on supporting Hispanic first through sixth graders with their schoolwork while reinforcing their English language skills. The program's main objective is to strengthen the communication and integration skills of local students through reading and conversation practices, allowing a safe place to ask questions and receive the support they need to succeed in school.
Cartaya-Marin's activity, named "Lorna's Sun Bottle," combined a fairytale story with hands-on chemistry. The active learning exercise was part of a book created to integrate weather and light concepts with reading and chemistry activities for children. Developed by retired Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences faculty members Ms. Samuella Sigmann and Dr. Dale Wheeler, the book was the foundation of two teacher workshops funded by Dwight Eisenhower Professional Development Program grants.
During the activity, the children become active participants in a problem-solving adventure story about Lorna, a princess from the Kingdom of Alchemy who must free the trapped Sun Spirit and return it to the sky. While listening to the story, the children gather clues from the woodland characters which allows them to visit the castle laboratory where they take on the role of Lorna and mix vinegar, baking soda, and washing power solutions with purple cabbage juice indicator to decode chemical clues that eventually help Lorna release the sun from the bottle.
Cartaya-Marin shared that the children were so involved and had so much fun helping Lorna release the sun that they did not realize they were doing chemistry:
During the "Lorna's Sun Bottle" activity, Abriendo Puertas students mixed vinegar, baking soda, and washing power solutions with purple cabbage juice indicator to decode chemical clues that eventually help Lorna release the sun from the bottle. Video by Dr. Howard Neufeld.
At the conclusion of the activity, each child received a goodie bag containing chemistry-themed items including National Chemistry Week temporary tattoos, a holographic pencil, a mini mole (for Avogadro’s number), and a chemistry pin. They also received a booklet—in Spanish or English—featuring activities they could do at home with their parents or guardians.
Cartaya-Marin was assisted by sophomore chemistry majors Masa Al Horani and Karen Rivera, Department of Biology Professor Dr. Howard Neufeld, and Appalachian State's Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Jamie Parson.
Serving as the Office of Diversity's Faculty Director of Hispanic/Latine Communities since 2022, Cartaya-Marin frequently collaborates with Parson to establish community partnerships serving within Western North Carolina, such as the one with Centro Latino. Parson visited Centro Latino over the summer to learn more about how the University could partner with the organization to support its mission. Parson then approached Cartaya-Marin about the opportunity to collaborate with Abriendo Puertas, and Cartaya-Marin proposed the interactive activity.
During her visit to Hickory's Centro Latino, Dr. Claudia Cartaya-Marin, professor in Appalachian State's Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences, led an activity that combined a fairytale story with hands-on chemistry. Photo by Dr. Howard Neufeld.
About Dr. Claudia Cartaya-Marin
Cartaya-Marin earned her bachelor's degree from Universidad Simón Bolívar (Caracas, Venezuela), her master's degree from Northeastern University, and her doctoral degree from Brandeis University. Following a postdoctoral position at Cornell University, Cartaya-Marin joined Appalachian State's Department of Chemistry as an associate professor in 1986. She was promoted to full professor in 1998 and served as department chair for 16 years, from 2005 through 2021.
An organic synthetic chemist by training, Cartaya-Marin's research interests included the development of synthetic methods of natural products that possess anti-cancer properties. Her teaching responsibilities have included Biochemistry, Advanced Organic Chemistry, Organic Synthesis, Organic Chemistry I and II, and Fundamentals of Organic Chemistry.
Cartaya-Marin is passionate about the success of Hispanic/Latine faculty, staff, students, and community members. Recipient of the 2020 Chancellor's Award for Inclusive Excellence for Faculty, she is a founding member and the current president of APP Unidos, the Hispanic/Latine faculty and staff association at Appalachian. Additionally, Cartaya-Marin is a co-principal investigator on the ADVANCE APPALACHIAN project. Funded by a nearly $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the project aims to recruit, retain, and promote more women faculty and faculty from underrepresented populations in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In 2017, Cartaya-Marin developed STEM Opportunities are Realized (SOAR), a program that provides additional support for first-year students to give them an equal opportunity for success in STEM fields. She served as the coordinator of SOAR until 2022.
Sophomore chemistry majors Masa Al Horani (left) and Karen Rivera (second from left) and Appalachian State's Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Jamie Parson (third from left) assisted Dr. Cartaya-Marin (fourth from left) with the activity. Photo by Dr. Howard Neufeld.
About the A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences
The A.R. Smith Department of Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences offers a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry, a Bachelor of Science in chemistry with eight different concentrations and an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science degree in fermentation sciences. The department’s programs prepare students to attend graduate and professional schools, as well as for employment in the pharmaceutical and fermentation industries and other business sectors. Learn more at https://dcfs.appstate.edu.
About Diversity and Inclusion at Appalachian
Appalachian State University is committed to developing and allocating resources to the fundamental task of creating a diverse campus culture. We value diversity as the expression of human similarities and differences, as well as the importance of a living and learning environment conducive to knowledge, respect, acceptance, understanding and global awareness. Learn more at http://diversity.appstate.edu.
By Lauren Andersen
November 29, 2023