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Case study

Looking below the surface: Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program

Innovative methods inform students and teachers about energy production.

The oil and gas industry has designated money toward education and research, with a goal of oil and gas energy education for Ohio students. They approached us 17 years ago, wanting to get good information to teachers. We started by addressing hot topics such as oil spills, but quickly realized that teachers and students alike didn’t know much about the process of getting oil and gas out of the ground. So we backed up and dealt with the basics:

  • Why is there oil and gas here? That’s geology.
  • How is it found? That’s physics and engineering.
  • How do they get it out of the ground? The flow of fluids to the surface—that’s physics.
  • How is it transported? That’s engineering and logistics.
  • What will be done with it? That’s chemistry.

For the past 5 to 6 years, we’ve been focused on petrochemicals: hydraulic fracturing, safe water, earthquakes, and things like that.

We pulled this information together, then used an innovative workshop design—peers teaching peers about how oil and gas production connects to science. Each summer, the teachers come and split into six groups. Each group learns something specific, then teaches their colleagues about what they’ve learned. This creates engaged learners—the teachers really seem to enjoy this method. This design has been replicated in other places.

The learning and teaching are Day 1 of the workshop, and the participants get graduate credit for it. Day 2 is a field trip to related locations. We’ve visited fracking sites and reclaimed areas. The teachers can take pictures and walk all around, giving them access to the latest technology and how it’s being used.

This all began 17 years ago. Now, the workshops are filled every summer. It’s a great opportunity—all expenses paid, and that includes hotel and food! And the teachers go home with $150 worth of classroom supplies and curricula. We have teachers trained in all 88 of Ohio’s counties, and we see new teachers all the time. They take the supplies back to their schools and teach energy education in a variety of ways. We have trained K-12 teachers, so these science skills—physical science, environmental science, chemistry, geology, physics and more—are being presented at all different levels.

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