Oklahoma has a novel way of teaching its students about the rich resources under their feet. The Oklahoma Energy Resources Board offers workshops for teachers, classroom supplies and educational field trips for students – all free of charge.

The OERB hosts about a dozen workshops for teachers each year and spends around $1.5 million on STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and math) classroom materials — a welcome sight for school districts hit hard by budget cuts. Teachers leave the workshops with hundreds of dollars in free classroom supplies and students improve their math and science skills while learning more about the oil and natural gas industry.

“We want to provide Oklahoma teachers with a program that engages their students, while also meeting State Academic Standards,” said OERB Education Director Carla Schaeperkoetter. “Since the oil and natural gas industry is so important in this state and many of the students have family members who work in the industry, these lessons provide real-world applications for the concepts they are learning.”

After a teacher completes a training workshop, they’re given a curriculum guide and a kit of materials needed to teach all of the activities in their classrooms. The kits range in value from $300 to $1,100.

“In Oklahoma, where school budgets have been reduced, these materials and field trips are a great resource for our teachers,” said the director.

Oklahoma teachers are encouraged to sign up for the free workshops, which instruct on how to use one of the OERB’s eight energy and science curricula in their classrooms. The curricula provide teachers from kindergarten through 12th-grade hands-on lessons to educate students about oil and natural gas. It incorporates language arts and social studies.

Oklahoma students receive hands-on learning through OERB’s educational programs.

The board expects to host 14 workshops around Oklahoma in 2017 and plans to provide curriculum and resources to some 1,300 teachers.

The workshops are nothing new. The OERB has offered the program for nearly two decades.The hands-on classroom curricula reaches students at all ages and grade levels including: Little Bits for early childhood education; Fossils to Fuel and Fossils to Fuel 2 for elementary education; a Petro Active program for middle schools; and, CORE Energy for high school students.

Upon completion of the workshop, teachers leave with a free box of supplies worth up to $1,100 and a teacher’s guide. They are also mailed a $50 stipend for attending and those who complete a curriculum also receive a free field trip for their classroom and six hours of professional development credits.

The OERB is always looking for dedicated oil and natural gas professionals to volunteer their time to teach kids of all ages about aspects of the industry through its Petro Pros program, which uses rocks, fossils, drill bits and maps to demonstrate how oil and natural gas are formed, discovered and produced at schools all around the state. The OERB provides its volunteers with all the necessary training and materials.

Each free museum field trip includes free admittance for teachers and students to the closest, age-appropriate museum, a free energy class/exhibit at the museum and partial to full travel reimbursement for schools or school districts

In the 2015-16 school year, OERB provided free field trips for more than 40,000 students, spending nearly $500,000 on museum admissions and transportation costs, according to the board.

The kits given to teachers include beakers, hot plates, calculators and document cameras. The OERB curriculum is taught by 98 percent of Oklahoma schools and aligned to the state’s new academic standards.

“It’s really important for students to relate what they’re learning in the classroom back to the geography and the climate of Oklahoma,” said Schaeperkoetter, who oversees student education programs.

“We just feel it’s important that kids in Oklahoma have an understanding about their natural resources, the oil and natural gas industry … to know that there are jobs available to them.”

In 1993, leaders representing Oklahoma’s oil producers and royalty owners, working with the Oklahoma State Legislature, formed the OERB. Oklahoma’s natural gas producers joined soon after. Their mission: to use the strength of Oklahoma’s greatest industry to improve the lives of all Oklahomans through education and restoration.

The OERB has partnered with 11 Oklahoma museums all around the state. Each one of these museums offers an energy-related class or exhibit to supplement the OERB curriculum. The museums include Cherokee Strip Regional Heritage Center-Enid, OK, Geoscience Center-Tulsa, OK, Goddard Camp and Museum- Sulphur, OK, Leonardo’s Children’s Museum-Enid, OK, Museum of Osteology- Oklahoma City, OK, Oklahoma History Center- Oklahoma City, OK, Oklahoma WONDERtorium- Stillwater, OK, Sam Noble Museum of Natural History- Norman, OK, Science Museum Oklahoma- Oklahoma City, OK, Tulsa Children’s Museum- Tulsa, OK, Woolaroc- Bartlesville, OK

Over the years the OERB curriculum has been updated numerous times to incorporate and highlight new industry technologies and trends. The OERB also updates the curriculum to meet the Oklahoma Academic Standards set by the State Department of Education. Each program meets the state standards, whether they are science, math, English/language arts or social studies.

Featured image source: newsok.com

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About The Author Chaye Stephen

My dad was a news reporter and later published Coal & Energy News, a magazine covering the Ohio Valley Coal industry. That's where I first honed my writing skills. I studied journalism in college but soon found that writing doesn’t always pay well. So through the years, I've functioned in many other capacities, including business owner and entrepreneur. Most recently, I've worked in the oil & gas industry leasing and buying minerals. I have two sons, and we live in the heart of the Utica Shale play in East Ohio. We live on 85 rural acres surrounded by the beauty of nature and lots of critters. Even here, the need to write still flows through my veins.