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Physics and Astronomy Outreach

Purdue's Physics and Astronomy outreach programs are based on the synergistic combinations of the program goals outlined above, aimed at learning fundamental concepts of science. Highlights are described below; learn more by following the links or menu.

The philosophy of Outreach in Physics and Astronomy at Purdue is to:

  • Create opportunities for Indiana K-12 students to learn about, and develop enthusiasm for, science.
  • Provide high quality professional development for Indiana K-12 teachers.
  • Collaborate with faculty to leverage resources and expertise for K-12 classrooms and science education.

Physics on the Road

Physics on the road demonstration

Physics on the Road (PTR) is the moniker for our large group presentations, aimed primarily at upper elementary and middle school grades. PTR road shows are typically done in the gym, cafeteria, or large activity room and can be custom designed to compliment local curricula, or be a stand-alone experience. Favorites requests for PTR include our own Liquid Nitrogen Show Starring N2, and The Force and Energy Show. An essential part of PTR is getting students down on the floor to participate in the action.

Saturday Morning Astrophysics

Saturday Morning Astrophysics (SMAP) is a monthly on-campus program for middle and high school students. SMAP sessions introduce a relevant topic to students and then provide an engaging hands-on activity during which students explore related concepts more deeply. Sessions are taught by post docs, graduate researchers, faculty and staff. Check out the far out things we do in SMAP.

Physics Inside Out

Students learning

Physics Inside Out (PIO) is our premier weeklong summer experience for middle school students. PIO engages students in STEM project design, open inquiry, and research and data analysis methods. Physics and Astronomy faculty and graduate staff engage PIO students in authentic laboratory experiences and investigations related to personal research, creativity and innovation. Check out Physics Inside Out.

Sidewalk Science

Students learning science principles

Sidewalk Science is an excellent fit for STEM learning in informal environments. Done "Carnival Style," Sidewalk Science engages students in elementary through middle school grades is a series of table-top guided inquiry exhibits, each of which is scripted toward learning identified principles of science. A unique premise to Sidewalk Science is the parallel engagement of parents, high school students, or the broader community in leading learning. Learn more about Sidewalk Science.

Science Express

Science Express is multifunctional high school level program grounded in content-based professional development for teachers, the availability of scores of teacher- and professionally-prepared classroom laboratory experiments for the classroom, and support and mentorship.  Science Express teacher participants have available to them the loan of laboratory technologies and materials for use in their own classrooms. Check out Science Express.

Service Learning

Teaching students about Physics

A major asset of the outreach program in Physics and Astronomy at Purdue is our Service Learning program. Service learning is based on the principles that learning is most effective when done in practical application, and enthusiasm for learning can be shared with others. The materials developed by students in our service learning courses – PHYS 295 (Service Learning in Outreach for undergrads) and PHYS 595 (Curriculum Design and Implementation for graduate students) are made available to K-12 students and teachers through our outreach program.

PHYS 595 also provides an opportunity for K-12 teachers who would like to earn graduate credit by designing, piloting and assessing new materials for their own classrooms. Learn more about service learning courses here.


Teachers learning about physics

Purdue Physics and Astronomy is one of several dozen institutions nationally that boasts a QuarkNet Center. Funded by NSF, QuarkNet is a professional development program for high school STEM teachers aimed at:

  1. Increasing teachers' knowledge in concepts related to cosmic rays, methods of detection and particle physics,
  2. Providing teachers the materials and apparatus to do cosmic ray studies with students in their own classrooms, and
  3. Providing high school students opportunities to actually do, and collaborate internationally in, analysis of accelerator research.

If you would like to know more about QuarkNet and related programs, please check out QuarkNet.


Interested in Knowing More?

In addition to the programs highlighted above, Physics and Astronomy Outreach makes Classroom Calls, providing resources and expertise for the K-12 classroom teachers. Whether we provide a "Scientist on Site" for a classroom talk and demonstration, support for lesson design and implementation, or work with teachers to provide a novel learning experience, Physics and Astronomy Outreach is eager to spread our enthusiasm for learning science.

For more information on any of our programs, please contact:

David Sederberg
Director of Physics & Astronomy Outreach

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Last Updated: Nov 30, 2023 11:06 AM

Department of Physics and Astronomy, 525 Northwestern Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2036 • Phone: (765) 494-3000 • Fax: (765) 494-0706

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