Science ROCKs at Saint Francis
University… and Will Soon ROLL!
BY JESSIE MINOR, TRAVIS ROSMUS, AND EDWARD P. ZOVINKA
small-group setting. A ROCK leader orchestrates the whole activity,
while each SFU volunteer assists a group of four to five students.
We often begin an event by asking the K– 12 students to think
about how science impacts our society, and the role it may have in
the future. While connecting science and the future for the audi-
ence, we implement the activities so that participants
become aware that science is interesting and FUN! We
hope that, by seeing chemistry in a different light, the
students will stay interested in science and have the con-
fidence to pursue higher levels of science education, and
thus prepare for adulthood in an increasingly science-
and technology-intense society.
The words “ROCK” and “ROLL” have taken on special meaning in the chemistry department at Saint Francis University (SFU). Dedicated faculty and students are working to bring science to the community through two efforts: ROCK (Rural Outreach Chemistry for Kids)
and ROLL (Rural Outreach Learning Laboratories).
SFU is a coeducational, comprehensive university
with approximately 1,600 undergraduates located
in the heart of the rural Allegheny Mountains, in the
Appalachian region of South Central Pennsylvania.
ROCK events initially focused on chemistry topics and
concepts, but based on teacher and student requests,
events now include activities beyond the typical boundaries of chemistry. ROCK events include such activities
as Liquid Nitrogen, Slime & Silly Putty, Birthday Party
Chemistry, Dry Ice, Cleaning Water with Dirt, Oily Oceans, Keep
Them Clean, Density Towers, From Corn to Plastic, and others.
We explore the topics by sharing fun (and hands-on) activities to
help connect students’ knowledge with concrete actions. Safety is
always a priority, so we insist on proper handling and disposal of
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF SAINT FRANCIS UNIVERSITY.
What is ROCK?
SFU ROCK aims to provide K– 12 students with extra
opportunities to perform hands-on scientific experiments using mostly household products. The program
engages students in a science activity highlighting the
“Wow!” factor of science, while also explaining the
chemistry behind the activity. Trained undergraduate
students and faculty members lead the ROCK events,
which are often scheduled during the academic day for
K– 12 audiences. SFU also schedules evening or weekend events to reach organizations such as Girl Scouts
and Boy Scouts. An ideal ROCK event is not demonstra-tion-driven; rather, it directly engages students in a
LEFT TO RIGHT: The ROCK team: Ben Schultz, Travis Rosmus, Jessie Minor,
Rob Hodgson, and Edward P. Zovinka.