Teachers get creative with lessons on oil, gas industry
BY ROD WALTON World Staff Writer
Thursday, July 26, 2012
7/26/12 at 3:04 AM
Read more energy stories that impact Tulsa.
Give kids textbooks and they may learn for a day, but give them some dirt, egg shells and yolk, mix it up in a plastic bottle and they may learn for a lifetime.
Such is the premise of Oklahoma Energy Resource Board's Energy Education Workshop held for 223 teachers Wednesday at Memorial High School. The educators receive training and kits for using games, books and experiments to teach students how the oil and gas industry works.
In Petroactive, geared for third- to sixth-graders, teachers from across the state made compost mixtures that, once kept bottled up for a few days, will show children how sedimentation and gas vapor can develop deep underground. In Little Bit, early childhood educators played the Road to Petroville game.
"Hands on, you can't compare it to anything else," Marissa Krispense, who works at Mark Twain Elementary in Tulsa, said during her Petroactive experiment. "They're going to remember it better."
The OERB, funded by a voluntary charge on oil and gas production, has spent $20 million on education outreach since 1996. The classroom curriculum is geared toward attracting students to possible occupations down the road and combating what some say are misconceptions about the industry.
"What you're going to hear today is the truth," Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr., himself a longtime oilman, said while addressing workshop participants at the Memorial auditorium. "We need you to get the word out. You have the hearts and minds of those children at your beck and call every day."
The OERB takes different paths to getting that word out, depending on the age group. The Core program for math or science offers a distillation experiment using cherry coke, showing students how the refining process works by turning crude oil into gasoline, solvent and other products.
Retired teacher Palmer Renshaw of Edmond walked her Little Bits teachers through the finer stops on the Road to Petroville. Longtime educators sat down cross-legged like little kids and played the game, hoping to get their card to the end before everyone else.
Margaret Trahern, who teaches kindergarten at Ator Heights Elementary in Owasso, has done the Little Bits curriculum in the past. She sees value in how it acquaints youngsters with an industry that not only creates economic opportunity statewide but also presents dangers they should know.
"It teaches kids when you see a pumping jack to go, 'Oh stay away from that,' " Trahern said. "This really brings a lot of jobs; it's what Oklahoma is all about."
Not all of Oklahoma was on board Wednesday. Two protesters stood at the Memorial parking lot entrance early on, waving signs such as "Don't frack with my water," a complaint about the practice of hydraulic fracturing to unlock oil and gas reserves in shale rock.
The mayor seized on the protesters' visit as a sign of the city's progressiveness.
"That is the first time that the OERB has ever been protested," he told the crowd. "Once again, Tulsa leads forward."
The energy workshop supporters pointed out that the experiments subtly teach skills for math, science, chemistry and mechanics. Those students could become engineers and geologists or welders and machinists, or something even newer.
"We're preparing children for jobs which haven't been created yet," Krispense said.
One teacher focused on the collaborative nature of Petroactive's compost activity. Sharon Burris, who teachers at Clinton Middle School in Tulsa, believes that it teaches communication skills desired by nearly all employers.
"They learn how to problem-solve, be part of a team," Burris said. "Sometimes it's just plain old social skills."
Original Print Headline: Education fuel
Rod Walton 918-581-8457
Pamela Worth (left), a teacher at MacArthur Elementary School, and Lou Jean Studebaker from Latta Elementary near Ada test out a board game about the oil industry Wednesday at Memorial High School. They were participating in a program that offers ways to teach classroom lessons about the energy industry. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World
Carol Davis (left), a teacher from East Central Junior High School, and Sharon Burris work on a project during a program for educators offered by the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board on Wednesday. MATT BARNARD / Tulsa World