R.O.C.K.-Rural Outreach Chemistry for Kids


R.O.C.K. is a volunteer organization founded in 1995 by Dr. Edward P. Zovinka, Professor of Chemistry at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA and the American Chemical Society-Student Affiliates (Chemistry Club). R.O.C.K. is now under the direction of Dr. Ashley Smith-Diemler, Assistant Professor of Chemistry.



The R.O.C.K. program demonstrates to local K-12 schools and youth organizations that science (especially chemistry) is important in everyone's life and can be exciting and interesting. Through R.O.C.K. activities led by Saint Francis University students, kids can conduct experiments and try out equipment provided by the R.O.C.K. program, all free of charge.

R.O.C.K. performs hands-on chemistry experiments and activities using mainly household products to show the importance of chemistry in day to day living. We focus on classroom visits (not stage presentations) in the 5 county area around SFU (Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, and Somerset). R.O.C.K. also looks at the role that chemistry will have in the future as well as how it will benefit our society.

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Experiments by Age Group

  • Oobleck (grades K-2)
    • Concept:  Properties of solids, liquids, and gases; states of matter
    • The students will learn the definition of matter and the characteristics of solids, liquids, and gases and make their own Oobleck using corn starch and water.  **Event can be messy**
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • Keep Them Clean (grades K-3)
    • Concept:  The importance of hand washing
    • The students will gain understanding of the importance of hand washing by "washing" their hands and removing germs through a simulation with a black light and special hand washing lotion.  The students will develop a technique for washing their hands properly and effectively. The students will be able to explain how soap works and why it is important to use soap when cleaning.
    • Approximated time:  35 minutes
  • Density Towers (grades K-5)
    • Concept:  Density
    • The students will learn about density of different liquids and solids by building a density tower made of several liquids and roping in solids such as beads, beans, and/or pennies.
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • Slime & Polymers (grades K-5)
    • Concept:  Polymers
    • The students will understand the concept of a polymer as it relates to the slime. The students will be able to describe the difference between a monomer and a dimer as well as the distance between molecules in a polymer by making their own slime.
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • Static Electricity (grades K-5)
    • Concept:  Experiments using charges of atoms and static electricity
    • The students will learn about the charges of atoms and their forces.  The students will use various experiments to better understand how static electricity works.  The students will be made aware of examples witnessed in daily life.
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • Oily Oceans (grades K-6)
    • Concept:  Causes and aftermath of oil spills
    • The students will learn about the causes of oil spills and the difficult process of the oil spill clean-up by reading Prince William by Gloria and Ted Rand.  The students will also learn about density of oil in comparison to water by discussing what happens in mousse demonstration.  Finally, the students will be asked to clean a feather from an oil spill to simulate helping animals after a spill and finding an efficient way to clean it.
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • Chromatography (grades 2-6)
    • Concept:  Mixture of chemicals can be separated based on their affinities for the chromatography paper and for the solvent.
    • The students will be able to understand the concept of chromatography by observing the separation of colors using chromatography paper, markers, and water.
    • Approximated time:  45 minutes
    • Optional:  The same experiment can also be done with ink and isopropyl alcohol (approximated time:  55 minutes)
  • The Effects of Temperature on Light Sticks (grades 2-6)
    • Concept:  The effect of temperature on the rate of a chemical reaction
    • The students will learn about the concept of a chemical reaction through observing what happens inside an activated light stick.  In particular, the students will gain understanding of how the particles in motion change their speed with varying temperatures by placing the light sticks in beakers filled with hot and cold water.
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • Eggshell Geodes (grades 3-6)
    • Concept:  Formation of geodes in rocks
    • The students will learn about the processes of crystallization and geode formation by growing their own alum crystals in eggshell halves.
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • Bath Bombs (grades 3-8)
    • Concept: Acids/bases, chemical reactions
    • The students will learn about the difference between acids and bases, different chemical reactions, and understand components present in a homemade bath bomb. The students will also have the opportunity to make their own bath bombs to take home with them the following day.
    • Approximated time: 40 minutes
  • Simple Machines (grades 3-8)
    • Concept:  Properties of simple machines
    • The students will learn about different types of simple machines and everyday examples.  The students will expand their vocabulary as they use levers and pulleys.  The students will gain an understanding of why simple machines reduce the force necessary to do work.
    • Approximated time:  45 minutes
  • Acid Base (grades 4-8)
    • Concept:  Properties of acids and bases
    • The students will learn the definitions of acids and bases, common examples for each, reactions that occur between them, and the characteristics each possess.
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • From Corn to Plastic (grades 6-8)
    • Concept:  Understanding the environmental reason for using corn as a source for the production of plastics.
    • The students will discuss the importance of developing and using alternate forms of materials other than depending on oil.  The students will also observe and record data from an experiment using cornstarch, corn oil, and water to create their own biodegradable plastic sample.
    • Approximated time:  45 minutes
  • Food Chemistry (grades 6-10)
    • Concept:  Chemistry experiments using common foods
    • The students will examine the food colorings used in candy, analyze the nutritional elements found in cereal, and extract DNA from strawberries.
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • Bioplastics (grades 9-12)
    • Concept: Polymers and green chemistry
    • The students will understand polymer basics, including definitions and commonly encountered types of polymers, learn the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry, and synthesize their own bioplastic.
    • Approximated time: 40 minutes
  • Forensics (grades 9-12)
    • Concept: Forensic science
    • The students will investigate a simulated crime scene. They will solve the case by visualizing fibers with microscopy, collecting and analyzing fingerprints, and identifying blood types.
    • Approximate time:  45 minutes
  • Liquid Nitrogen (grades 9-12)
    • Concept:  Charles' Law, physical vs. chemical change, applications of liquid nitrogen
    • The students will learn about Charles' Law, the difference between physical and chemical change, and the practical uses of liquid nitrogen through a number of liquid nitrogen demonstrations and hands-on experiments.  The students will also have an opportunity to make ice cream using liquid nitrogen.
    • Approximated time:  40 minutes
  • Super Soakers (grades 9-12)
    • Concept:  Diaper chemistry
    • The students will learn about osmosis and the unique properties of sodium polyacrylate and how it is used in disposable diapers in order to keep babies dry.  Saint Francis University R.O.C.K. volunteers will cut the diapers open and remove sodium polyacrylate while your students will be given the opportunity to test it.
    • Approximate time:  45 minutes