By Rick Hiduk
On Oct. 5, Cabot Oil & Gas, UGI Energy Services and Williams collaborated to acquaint teachers and administrators in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties with the educational components needed for employment in the natural gas industry via the Oilfield Education Center (OEC). The program conducted at Pittston Area High School attracted around 100 educators representing approximately 30 different schools.
The OEC was one of many elements included in a multi-school district event orchestrated by the Luzerne Intermediate Unit (LIU). In addition to the integration of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum as they pertain to the regional job market, workshops for teachers related to additional points of interest, including student behavior and wellness and drug abuse prevention.
According to LIU18 director of STEM and Innovative Practices, Richard Mackrell, the OEC was cosponsored by Junior Achievement of Pittston and brought in to present activities related to the energy field that can be used in any K-12 curriculum. Mackrell attended an OEC training session in Houston last year and assisted as an instructor on Oct. 5.
Pittston High School STEM coach and computer program teacher Tara Craig also helped with instruction. She is passionate about focusing on STEM principles. “Not only will we help our students develop the science, technology, engineering, and math skills necessary to pursue a career in the ever-growing STEM field, but we will also give them the tools to think critically,” Craig stated.
STEM activities through which the teachers rotated included how to construct a contour map, differentiating between potential and kinetic energy by making “noodle poppers” out of a pool of noodles, making solar bracelets that detect UV radiation, engineering an oil derrick that would hold the most poker chips, sharpening communication skills by creating a Lego structure before having another group reconstruct it via their directions, and playing Energy Bingo.
“The materials were very inexpensive, and the instructions were easy to follow and adapt to different grade levels,” Craig related.
OEC education director Doris Thomas indicated that response to the fun, hands-on activities was affirming of the goals of the program. Teachers told her that the day went quickly because it was so well organized, that they learned a lot in a short period of time, and that the highly-motivating skill-builders would work well with all of the students in their classrooms.
“I believe it is extremely beneficial for teachers to do these kinds of hands-on STEM projects,” Craig offered, noting that she assisted with instruction for the building of the spaghetti towers and the solar bracelets. “Often, they do not really understand what STEM is or how readily these activities can be added to their curriculum. Activities like these – that align to standards – can bring fun back to the classroom, spark the student’s creativity and reach the students who are hands-on learners.”
Participants were also given the book “When I Grow Up to Be an Engineer,” 3-D glasses, and a flash drive holding the entire Project E3: Expanding Energy Education curriculum. Some also won $50 gift cards to purchase school supplies.
Wendy Yedlock, a math teacher at Hanover Area Jr/Sr High School was awarded a visit to her school by the Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit (MOLU). The prize valued at $2,200 was sponsored by UGI Energy Services. OEC’s attractive hands-on learning unit is a mobile science exhibit geared to fifth- through eighth-graders.
“We are all looking forward to a wonderful day and an increased awareness of the natural resources in our geographical area,” she continued. “Anytime theory can be demonstrated through application, a richer understanding and appreciation can be achieved by students.”
UGI Energy Services vice president of government affairs Pam Witmer related that sponsoring the MOLU for a regional school and helping to fund the Oilfield Education Center for teachers fits the company’s goal of fostering STEM studies and building a qualified workforce from the ground up.
“Without individuals competent in fields like welding, mechanics, accounting and the traditional engineering and science fields, energy development and delivery is not possible,” she stated. “It is fundamental that we support opportunities like this to ensure that we have knowledgeable educators ready to develop those skills in our students.”
“Our ability to operate safe, environmentally responsible and reliable natural gas pipelines and other vital energy infrastructure is only as good as the people who design, build and operate them,” added Williams’ senior communicator Joe Horvath. “Because of this, we are committed to ensuring STEM is a prominent focus among students in early educations.”
Cabot Oil & Gas has arranged for at least a dozen educators to go to Houston for the nationally-recognized OEC training over the past few years.
“They returned with new ideas, lesson plans, and enthusiasm for energy education,” Cabot director of external affairs George Stark explained. “It seemed like it was the right time to bring the OEC to Pennsylvania to offer this training.”
Based on the tremendous success of this symposium, the sponsors of the program are looking forward to running additional conferences next year. For educators interested in more energy education, the OEC is hosting its Project E3: Expanding Energy Education facilitators conference in Galveston, TX from June 9 to 11, 2019.
Contact Doris Tomas at firstname.lastname@example.org for registration information.