Oklahoma Energy Resources Board Provides Science Education Materials for Teachers

Article excerpt

Katy Cook has spent seven years teaching fourth-graders at Arrow Springs Elementary in Broken Arrow. For the last five years, she has relied on free education materials from the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board to get her students engaged in science.

When Cook runs out of supplies for a project, she submits a request to the OERB and receives more in the mail. For her other subjects, she often has to buy supplies with her own money.

"My district does a great job of providing what they need, but there isn't a lot of info that is grade-level appropriate," Cook said.

Cook must teach her students about fossils, but there are only a few pages in the text on the subject. She can find supplemental information about fossils, but it is on a sixth-grade to eighth- grade reading level. Cook is one of dozens of Oklahoma teachers who have attended the OERB's teacher training workshops, allowing her to get hands-on experience for lessons she will teach her students. Science and math teachers who attend the workshops get a material kit with $600 to $650 worth of supplies.

The OERB developed the educational programs more than 20 years ago, said Mindy Stitt, executive director. At the time, the oil and gas industry had an image problem. In many middle school textbooks, there were only a few paragraphs about the science behind oil and natural gas extraction and often they were accompanied by pictures of birds covered in crude oil. So the OERB worked with Sandy Garrett, then the state superintendent of education, to develop classroom curricula that would meet the state's standards.

Now Oklahoma's program serves as a model for other oil- and gas- producing states. In 1998, Ohio and Illinois created similar organizations, aimed at providing teacher training materials and educating the general public about the industry.

Stitt and Mike Terry, former OERB executive director and president of the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association, traveled to Texas, New Mexico and Colorado to encourage creation of similar education groups. …