Six Ways Chemistry Helps Kids Get Back to School
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Chemistry isn’t just a course requirement – it’s a key part of many of the items your child uses throughout the school day. Chemical compounds help create durable and reliable school supplies, clothes, sports equipment, classroom learning aids and more. Without chemistry, we wouldn’t have sneakers, laptops, crayons, lunch boxes or much more!

Below are just a few ways chemistry helps kids get ready for the new school year:

  • The snack pack: Plastic lunch boxes and totes are lightweight and make lunches easy to transport, even for little ones. Reusable plastic containers like thermoses and water bottles are shatter-resistant and convenient for everyday use. Many kinds of plastics packaging are airtight – from zip top baggies to resealable containers – keeping foods and snacks fresh and delicious from morning till lunchtime. Collapsible lunch boxes using silicone chemistry are lightweight and space saving.
  • Express yourself: Arts and crafts supplies depend on chemistry to help get the creative juices flowing. Crayons come in hundreds of colors, but their chemical makeup is quite simple – the two basic ingredients in most crayons are paraffin wax (also used to make candles) and color pigment. Pens can contain white ink (which contains titanium oxide), metallic gold ink (copper-zinc alloy) and carbon black, a pigment derived from coal and oil, an essential part of black ballpoint pen ink.
  • Tote it: Kids drop things – a lot – which is why many kid’s backpacks have plastic padding to help protect electronics, laptops and tablets from a fall. Today, backpacks can be made entirely of plastic materials, right down to the zippers and pulls. For little kids, a slick, smooth and transparent vinyl backpack can be a great choice – easy to keep clean, and easy to check that all the needed supplies are loaded up in the morning. Backpacks made from plastics like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) also are water resistant and resist bacteria growth and mildew too.
  • Singin’ in the rain: Rain jackets and other gear enhanced with fluorinated polymers are water-repellent and stain- and abrasion-resistant, to help children stay warm and dry through the school year. Thanks to chemistry, fabrics like polyester or nylon allow skin to breathe; moisture vapor can pass through fabric while repelling rain or snow on the outside of the jacket.
  • Hit the fields: Bike helmets and other sports gear made from different types of plastics help protect kids from injury on the playing fields. A helmet lining made from expanded polystyrene in different layers and densities enables the helmet to absorb impact, while the helmet’s shell – often made with polycarbonate – is strong, but lightweight and shatter-resistant, adding even more protection.

    Got a track and field star in your family? Polyurethane in the midsole of sneakers and running shoes adds stability and cushioning that doesn’t flatten out over time. The outer soles of running shoes are often made of a thermoplastic rubber material, which provides support and shock absorption.

  • Helping with homework: Kids today increasingly use computers to research class assignments, write papers and even take tests. Electronics of all kinds depend on chemistry – from plastic-coated wiring, to silicone computer chips, to scratch-resistant polycarbonate computer screens.

Thanks to the products of chemistry, students – and their teachers – are ready for a successful year as soon as the school bell rings.

To learn more about the everyday benefits of chemistry, check out some of our other stories on chemical safety here, including this video on Chemistry in the Great Outdoors.