Outreach Programs > UVA Chemistry LEAD Program > History of the LEAD Program

The idea for the group and the group itself originated from a conversation two graduate students (Trisha Vickrey and Natalie McKinney) had in the summer of 2009 about the importance of making UVa chemistry visible to our local community and our disappointment that there wasn’t more outreach to schools. Before coming to UVA, one of the graduate students had been a high school teacher. During the summer of 2007, she worked at a restaurant downtown, where she worked with several local elementary teachers. The two graduate students decided to target elementary students because 1) they were paying out of pocket for all of the materials and appropriate experiments for these grades use cheap, household ingredients, 2) She had taught science camps for this age group previously and had some materials from that already and 3) And had contacts already.

Teachers were contacted and asked what kinds of things they would need or want in their elementary classes. The Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) for K-5 grades was also consulted. A few experiments were found that 1) met the teachers needs 2) met the SOLs for different grade-levels and 3) had to do with chemistry. The first official meeting was in August 2009 and together, they convinced some other graduate students to attend. 4 major objectives for the group were determined:

1. Teach Elementary students chemical principles through demonstrations and experiments
2. Encourage and garner students’ interest in science
3. Give grad students the opportunity to practice communication and teaching skills
4. Have lots of fun and make this into a successful program for years to come

Once a team was formed, they began reaching out to more teachers, principals, and vice principals with their experiments and the SOLs that they met, asking the principal to share this information with their teachers. During the fall semester of 2009, visits were coordinated with Johnson Elementary, Peabody Elementary, Yancey Elementary and Murray Elementary.

After Fall 2009, word started to spread and teachers began requesting visits. For the entire first year, the team did everything themselves in their free time and using their own money to pay for it. They ended up visiting over 20 classes and helping over 500 students engage in science experiments!

Sometime during the 2010-2011 academic year, Dr. Burnett was gracious enough to help the team get reimbursed for their materials. During the Spring 2011 semester, several grad student volunteers and began to make even more community contacts. They got involved with Kidvention 2011 and the Discovery Museum and some began teaching a monthly class for kids at the Science Museum under LEAD and hosted a Forensic Science Day/Event at the museum. One of the original founders began teaching an enrichment course through Saturday Enrichment Program in the Curry School of Education and doing outreach events with the neuroscience folks at UVa. All of this allowed them to gain visibility in the community. Teachers began contacting us for visits regularly. It is to be emphasized that because none of this was institutionalized, the graduate students made time to do this and there weren’t any faculty involved yet. This required an enormous amount of hard work and effort of UVa’s chem students, who were able to teach thousands of students in our community – all of those grad students did such a great job and surely had to stay late in lab the day of a visit to make up for this volunteer effort! Without all of their effort, LEAD would have never become a recognized group. At some point, the team applied for official group status through the university and Professor Jill Venton agreed to be a faculty sponsor.

At the end of 2011 or early 2012, Professor Venton included LEAD in the outreach portion of a grant. This allowed them to get non-disposable materials like plastic graduated cylinders and order their own pipettes and other supplies, which helped tremendously. During the 2011-2012 year, Chemistry Camp was organized and even recognized by UVA Today. http://news.virginia.edu/content/good-chemistry-grad-students-design-engaging-elementary-school-science-lessons.