“Ultimately, we want young people to find science exciting and to pursue technical careers. And because PPG hires chemists, scientists, and engineers all the time, students who see the show now might even work for PPG one day.”
- Sue Sloan, executive director of the PPG Industries Foundation
No one ever said science was easy. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. And having fun with science is the lesson behind Carnegie Science Center’s long-standing Science on the Road series, which has a new trick—and some buried treasure—up its sleeve.
A Road Map to Scientific Treasure
Ion Jones and the Lost Castle of Chemistry, the third Science Center education show produced in partnership with PPG Industries Foundation, will debut just in time for the 2008-09 school year, playing to boffo box office audiences at scores of regional schools as well as to students as far away as Virginia Beach. Last year, nearly 200,000 students experienced Science on the Road shows, presented by Science Center educators in classrooms and school auditoriums. The newest chapter is expected to draw rave reviews, which is why the Science Center is urging schools to book early.
Based on the popular Indiana Jones adventure series, Ion Jones takes elementary and middle schoolers on a multimedia quest for knowledge about chemistry, its place in our everyday lives, and potential careers in the field. It’s a 45-minute expedition designed to entertain and educate at the same time—complete with a real-life action hero presenter dressed in a leather jacket and fedora. While he can’t divulge the entire story line, Science Center program production coordinator and Ion Jones scriptwriter Mike Hennessy does offer a sneak peek of sorts.
“There’s going to be a lot of high-impact energy on stage, with fireballs, explosions, and other special chemistry effects,” Hennessy says. “This will be a global adventure with stops around the world to collect scientific clues that will lead us to the Lost Castle of Chemistry. Along the way, we’ll explore an ancient Egyptian temple, hike through a rainforest, and visit a prehistoric carbon forest as we search for the castle.”
Of course, the trail to the castle will be laced with obstacles in the form of chemical problems to be solved. Students must also outrace a group of villains who would use the powers of chemistry for evil.
If Ion Jones sounds like a great time, that’s part of the plan. The thrill-packed show also teaches kids more than a few chemistry lessons—with the real-world help of PPG Industries.
“Along with the funding the foundation provides, PPG scientists help us develop the shows,” says Jessica Lausch, the Science Center’s director of education experience. “We shared our educational objectives with them, and they provided PPG products and developed experiments to help show students that chemistry is all around us in nature and in the things that people make.”
During the show, scientists from the Pittsburgh paint and chemicals manufacturing company appear on video to help students solve a few chemical equations. For PPG, the ongoing funding of Science on the Road and its partnership with the Science Center are a natural fit.
“Our mission is to enhance the quality of life in the communities where PPG has a presence,” says Sue Sloan, executive director of the PPG Industries Foundation. “We’re strategic about how we do that, and education is our main focus, particularly in science and technology. So what better place for us to do this than at Carnegie Science Center?”
Originally slated to underwrite three “road” shows with a $400,000 gift, the foundation recently extended its support to create an extravaganza for the 2009-10 school year that focuses on energy efficiency. While the foundation invests much in Science on the Road in terms of money, people, and resources, PPG looks forward to reaping the benefits in the not-so-distant future.
“Ultimately, we want young people to find science exciting and to pursue technical careers,” says Sloan. “And because PPG hires chemists, scientists, and engineers all the time, students who see the show now might even work for PPG one day.”
Planting the seed that will help grow a bumper crop of new scientists 10 to 15 years down the line just may be the ultimate quest in the search for the Lost Castle of Chemistry.
“It’s important for kids to know that science is exciting and that discovering new things is part of the allure for people in the field,” says Hennessy. “Chemistry is what helps us create new technologies, develop new medicines, and make our lives better in so many ways. Our role here at the Science Center is to translate what chemistry is and what scientists do in a way that creates a valuable educational experience for the students who participate in Ion Jones.”