Argentina - Young Ambassadors for Chemistry

YACs in Argentina
Young Ambassadors for Chemistry came to South America from May 9th to 15th. 2005 

I arrived in Argentina after a 13 hour flight and 2 hours sleep and was met by Monica Tosi, the Science Across the World coordinator for South America, tired but excited about the prospect of taking YACs to another location.

This is our second YAC event, following on from a fantastic week in Taiwan last year.
The initiative is sponsored by the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC and GlaxoSmithKline ( through Science Across the World (
The workshop was hosted by ESSARP, the English Speaking Scholastic Association of the River Plate ( in the heart of Buenos Aires.
Colleagues from around Buenos Aires followed a three day programme of workshops which focused on the Science Across the World programme of educational exchanges and preparing Science Day events for young people in order to raise public understanding of Chemistry.
Participants were signed up the Science Across the World programme and got the chance to get their hands on the programme materials which focus on getting students involved in investigations of local lifestyle and culture through Science issues and then exchanging this data with partner classrooms around the world.
Over the three days we attracted 13 teachers, each of whom expressed surprise that there weren’t more teachers at the workshop, that it should have been publicised more among the language teaching community and that it is difficult to get teachers into workshops in Argentina for a number of reasons, not least because getting time off school for such events is a problem.
Having said that, all of the teachers who attended were very enthusiastic about the Science Across programme and the YACs idea to the extent that the group produced a plan of action themselves for introducing the programme in their schools, sharing it among colleagues and developing it in the region.
Colleagues built models of DNA from sweets
… and produced and presented their own line of cosmetics
Eva, our trusty assistant at ESSARP, produced a wonderful booklet of the Science Across materials in the two languages, Spanish and English.
Thanks also to Tomas for providing technical assistance quickly and effectively whenever we shouted for help.    
Monica Tosi spoke about the development of the Science Across programme in South America, recent events and future plans.
Dr Norma Nudelman (FCEyN, UBA, CONICET superior researcher, member of the Academia Nacional de Ciencies Exactas) spoke on the topic of ‘Green Chemistry for a Cleaner World’. Dr Carlos Calvo (chief of the Biological Chemistry department in FCEyN, UBA researcher in the ‘Leloir Institute’ CONICET) gave a presentation on the theme ‘From DNA to Cloning, a story that is just beginning’. 
Thanks to our partners in the initiative, small and large. Bio Rad ( provided us with a free DNA extraction kit as a prize for our cosmetics workshops for the best ‘performer’ in the group. Dolores was pleased with this!
Cognis ( also provided us with detergent for the cosmetics workshops.
YAC Day      
More than 30 students worked on cosmetics and DNA models in the events building of the beautiful Japanese Gardens in Buenos Aires.
The Autumn weather behaved for us to bring in a flow of visitors throughout the day as children built a DNA model from sweets and produced lines of cosmetics.
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The final DNA model was about 5 metres in length and the youngest group of cosmetics chemists won prizes including a YAC t-shirt for their cosmetics TV commercial.
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Many thanks to Horacio Kagami ( the managing director of the Fundacion Espacios Verdes for allowing us to set up our YAC camp for the day in the Japanese Gardens and for hosting this wonderful day. The excitement and enthusiasm of the children, their activity and noise made sure that we attracted lots of attention from the passing public. Exactly what we wanted! 
Finally, it was great to have Nicolas Fossati with us, the young artist who designed our YAC emblem. Nicolas designed the emblem when he was still at school but has since gone on to study art at University in Buenos Aires. Thanks Nicolas and good luck!
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PS – final thoughts…
This was a small group and we’ve learnt some useful lessons about publicity and networking with schools for future similar events. My hat goes off to the colleagues who came to the workshops. They worked very hard often travelling long distances to get to be with us after a full day’s teaching. Their enthusiasm for the Science Across the World programme was clear and we look forward to having them in our growing family of participants. It has always been our experience that once we get a group of teachers in a room together and we have the opportunity to present them the Science Across programme, they invariably love it. The same thing happened here. Formal lines of communication didn’t seem to get our message across and we need to find a different approach in contacting schools and teachers.
Coincidentally, I met Analia Kandel ( headteacher, radio presenter and teacher trainer at the University of Buenos Aires and we discussed the issue of getting teachers to workshops. Not only did Analia agree to promote the programme for us and arrange for sessions with Monica Tosi introducing the programme to trainee teachers, but she also got me in to her school, Boston College, before I left to teach three lessons with over a hundred students on a selected number of Science Across activities. She also introduced me to 7 of her teachers in the short time I was there. Perhaps there’s a lesson for us here on ways and means of contacting teachers and networking in Argentina.    
If the teachers can’t come to us, we need to go to them!