Education Key to Understanding

Ohio educator Mark Baughman's students are starting to ask questions about Utica Shale, and he wants to have the answers. So Baughman went on a field trip.

The Adamsville Elementary School math and science teacher put on a bright blue hard hat and spent Thursday visiting a pipeline and supply company, an oil gathering station, a compressor station and a pump station in Marietta.

Baughman was one of about 20 teachers participating in the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program's teacher workshop. The two-day event cost about $25,000 to host, but everything was paid for through donations from oil and gas companies, said Rhonda Reda, OOGEEP executive director.

OOGEEP has hosted eight to 10 such workshops each year for the past 14 years, Reda said, "long before anyone started talking about Utica."

The goal is to improve science scores in Ohio and get students interested in scientific and energy-related careers, Reda said. Because of a lack of interest, oil and gas companies have lost two generations of workers, she said.

The workshop was focused largely on natural gas drilling, but OOGEEP also advocated for other types of fuels and energy careers, Baughman said.

"Their big thing is careers," he said. "They're pushing us to get kids involved now so they can get jobs."

Alliance Petroleum Vice President of Operations Marty Miller organized the field trip for the teachers. Miller has been working in the oil and gas industry for 33 years, he said.

For him, the workshop was all about education.

"Most people in America don't really get a true perception of what the oil and gas industry really is all about. ... What's important is to figure out how to let people see the real side of it rather than maybe a perceived side of it," he said.

Most of the technology for the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing is not new, it's just on a much larger scale than what was used in the past, Miller said.

Dresden Elementary School teacher Renee Bright is excited to take what she learned from the workshop back to her classroom. For fifth- and sixth-grade science, she's required to teach about renewable and nonrenewable forms of energy. Bright already has visited a solar and ethanol plant and a wind farm, so it was time to learn more about Utica, she said.

"I just love this energy stuff. The more you see, the more you want to know," she said.

At the end of the workshop, each teacher got a box of experiment materials to take home. Bright plans to recreate parts of the workshop with her students, she said.