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Chemistry outreach celebrates a quarter-century of visiting Indiana classrooms


Writer(s): Steve Scherer

The roots of the College of Science’s outreach program Science Express started in the Department of Chemistry 25 years ago.

In early 1989, the Chemistry Outreach Advisory Board, a leadership team of practicing high school teachers, met to determine the direction of chemistry outreach from Purdue University to Indiana high schools.

bayley and grigsbyFrom this meeting emerged the concept of the Purdue Instrumentation Van Project, a comprehensive university/high school collaboration designed to initiate and then support systemic change in high school science laboratories,” explained Bill Bayley, K-12 Chemistry Outreach Coordinator and Science Express Director.

The Van Project was implemented a year later, after the team of 32 chemistry teachers attended in-service chemistry and analytical instrumentation workshops where they developed a lab manual for high school students.

Purdue then equipped a mobile van, the “Chemobile,” with class-sized sets of instruments that were delivered to schools throughout Indiana.

In 2005, the name of the program was changed from Chemobile to Science Express as other College of Science departments joined the outreach mission.

Last year, Bayley and Science Express Coordinator Zach Grigsby logged nearly 20,000 miles in the two chemistry vehicles, visiting 38 schools in a 17 county area, working with 57 teachers and more than 17,000 students.

“I have a great job where I get to be Santa Claus for science teachers, working with some really great people,” Grigsby added.

“We’re finding that a high percentage of Indiana high school students coming to study in the College of Science at some point have been serviced by Science Express,” Bayley said.

In early May, Bayley is organizing a 25th reunion of former directors, participants, and professors who helped develop the initial instructional content and launch the original van project.