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Petroleum industry brings lessons to kids

Going below and beyond

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POSTED: September 21, 2011 11:07 a.m.
Photo by Katie McGurl/

Many of the students’ favorite hands-on activity was the robotic arm demonstration. Alyssa George (left) and Mallory Mosier work together to figure out how to use the arm to pick up a ball.

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Last Wednesday, fifth-graders at George Washington Carver Elementary school experienced hands-on learning with a traveling exhibit.

The Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit, on an educational tour from Texas to Washington, D.C., stopped in Richmond Hill to get students to delve deeply into energy science.

MOLU is an outpost of the Houston-based Offshore Energy Center. According to a press release, the OEC seeks to stimulate student interest in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics through promoting and providing facts on the oil and natural gas industry.

“This is important because oil and gas are all around us – not only used to power cars, our cities, but also plastics,” said MOLU Consultant Michael Nevels.

“If you used a toothbrush this morning, you were actually using a product of oil and gas,” he added. “If your shirt is not made out of cotton, it’s made out of some type of synthetic blend, which is made with oil and gas.”

The exhibit covered various subjects pertaining to the oil industry, including geography, geology, technology and earth science.

Students visited four different learning modules at each of six brightly-colored kiosks, outfitted with microscopes, dioramas, geological core samples, oil thickness testers, 3-D maps, and even a robotic arm demo.

“I think it’s really fun, and it’s cool because you learn new stuff,” said fifth-grader Dillon Collins.   

One module included an array of everyday items like toothpaste, kitchen utensils and toys. Students had to guess which of the objects they believed were made using oil or natural gas.

“I didn’t know Barbies were made out of oil,” said Kelly Gavin. “That’s really interesting.”

The fifth-graders expressed their interest in the variety of hands-on experiments and demonstrations available.

“I like the spots where it’s an activity, like the interactive stuff,” said Zach Sewell.

“I like the interactive stuff, too, like the crayon fossil rubbings and building with Legos,” added Andrew Smith.

Teacher Amy Blocker said the MOLU exhibit fit into the fifth-grade curriculum of learning about energy and geology.

Students watched a video and took a pre-test to prepare for the MOLU visit. As they explored the exhibit’s modules, they filled out corresponding study guide booklets.

 G.W. Carver Elementary School Principal, Crystal Morales, said she was excited for the children to experience an extension of their everyday lessons.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to get to do hands-on science activities … to give them exposure to different elements of science,” she said. “It teaches them a lot about the oil industry and the things we use oil for, where it comes from and where it goes.”

 

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