CANFIELD - It's not often nonprofit organizations get a chance to teach teachers, but that was the case Thursday in Mahoning County, where the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program offered a two-day workshop for educators around the state.
OOGEEP, a nonprofit organization that helps teachers in the state of Ohio learn more about energy education through hands-on experiments and a curriculum based around the energy industry, took about 40 secondary education teachers from all over the state to production and injection wells sites and other related manufacturing plants.
All that came after Wednesday's full day of activities Mahoning County Career and Technical Center focusing on seven different learning stations with hands-on lesson plans and several experiments. The workshop was designed for the teachers to not only learn the material, but to expand on it and use it in the classroom.
Laura Spey, right, of Poland McKinley Elementary School, asks Les Dundics, left, of Eastern Everflow Partners LP, a question about one of his company's oil and gas well sites during an all-day tour.
Leading the tour was Les Dundics of Canfield-based Everflow Eastern Partners LP. His goal, he said, was to give the teachers a visual grasp of the process of both directional and straight wells, and the varying surroundings.
"There are wells not only in low-income areas but high-income. Some are even in high-populated places, not just farmlands," he said. "We saw condominiums next to oil and gas wells, some next to schools. It's basic, good knowledge of what happened from when the wells were built until the development afterwards."
The tours gave teachers the opportunity to learn about the oil and gas drilling industry, and discover new ways to educate their students along the way.
Heather Moran and Karen Cordova teachers from Boardman High School said the first step to getting kids involved is finding something they can relate to.
"What's nice about this field trip is that it takes place in parts of Boardman. Now I can ask students if they know this one playground and that there's an oil and gas well there," said Cordova. "They also did a real good job at telling us about hydraulic fracturing, as far as using it and how to educate kids about the pros and cons. Now we can dispel false information."
Both Cordova and Moran agreed this is a topic of relevance in the classroom, and even the school district.
"We didn't know that when they drill wells in places around the schools, they have to give money to the school district. That's a good reason, because so many school districts are hurting financially."
OOGEEP board member and Education Committee Chair Sarah Tipka said the state of Ohio's science standards are ever changing, but OOGEEP's programs are always geared around that.
"People can use energy education as a vehicle to enhance and meet the state's standards," she said. "Everyone who attends this workshop gets a CEU credit, or continuing education credit, which counts towards requirements for teachers to keep current."
Tipka said OOGEEP helps teachers understand the mechanics, geology and economics behind oil and gas, and to have an appreciation so that when they're presented with the topic they can share the facts with schools, colleagues and the community.
"It's like we said...'A lie can go around the world seven times while the truth is putting on its shoes,'" she said. "We're not political in what we say, we just explain the facts."