Skip navigation

ROCK Program Celebrates 23 Years of Outreach

June 7, 2018 Tags: Community Engagement and Outreach , STEAM

The Saint Francis University Rural Outreach Chemistry for Kids (R.O.C.K.) program completed its 23rd year of collaborative work with local K-12 schools in Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Somerset, Westmoreland, and Clearfield counties. In the 2017/18 school year, R.O.C.K. coordinated and completed 216 events for 5,662 youth.

Rock leader making liquid N2 ice creamThe focus of the R.O.C.K. program is to encourage SFU Chemistry students to further their involvement in the field of science by engaging with younger students’ through hands-on science activities. Some of the age-appropriate activities the ROCK program conducted include, liquid nitrogen and dry ice experiments, food chemistry, and slime and silly putty.

Time and attention is directed toward smaller, underserved schools in rural areas, while also expanding the program to new schools and organizations. 

Rising Chemistry seniors Grace McKernan, Bryant Onkst, and Paul Kasunic served as the R.O.C.K. program co-directors throughout the academic year. SFU chemistry faculty continue to support the program by leading R.O.C.K. events, including service learning in their syllabi, and encouraging their students to be involved in the R.O.C.K. program. The Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh (SACP) and First National Bank provide much support through their generous funding. Over the last 22 academic years, more than 62,000 K-12 students have participated in hands-on activities through R.O.C.K.

ROCK Events Graph

During a R.O.C.K. event, the leader accompanies 3-4 assistants/volunteers to a classroom. The leader provides the science context and background. With the help of the assistants, the SFU group leads the K-12 students through an activity designed to enhance the scientific method of discovery. Attention to the individual is stressed, and the program’s focus is on small classrooms where there is more opportunity for personal interaction between students and volunteers. 

More information about the R.O.C.K. programs, and a form for educators to schedule a visit can be found at

Photo caption: ROCK Leader Grace McKernan helping students at Moshannon Valley High School make Liquid N2 ice cream.

Featured News