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Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit Offers Hands-on Learning Session

Kathy Frio was among the guests at Belmont College Thursday evening. Oil and gas business leaders, educators and officials observed hands-on learning stations designed to teach pupils the concepts of the oil and gas industry and to encourage careers in the field. Event organizers asked for donations to bring the mobile learning stations to area schools.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — County leaders have lamented that the most valuable export from the Belmont County area is its youth.

Businesses, elected officials and educators are meeting with the goal of building local talent among students and giving them the tools to take advantage of the oil and gas boom.

On Thursday afternoon, the Mobile Oilfield Learning Unit visited St. Clairsville Middle School for a demonstration of their hands-on learning stations. The stations covered how numerous elements of the industry, from the energy cycle to the hunt for oil and the items made from the industry’s byproducts.

John Carey, director of the Appalachian Regional Commission, visited and observed the level of engagement.

“We watched the kids really be excited,” Carey said. “The Number One thing people need is talent. The more a community can develop its local talent, the stronger position it’s going to be to take advantage of economic opportunities. We want Belmont County and the other counties that will benefit from the shale boom to take full advantage of it.

“Letting our kids know this is an opportunity for them. They can stay here and make a good living.”

Later that evening, the MOLU stations were moved to Belmont College and educators and business leaders from the oil and gas industry viewed them and discussed the possible benefits of the program.

“We’re trying to bridge the gap with educators and members of the oil and gas industry and local businesses to host that and introduce it to all members of the community,” Lisa Kindler of the Ohio Oil & Gas Association said. “The goal is to be able to have this in every school in our area and to be able to have members of the community and the oil and gas industry be able to help out and fund that.”

“These six stations are just crucial to get into the hands of teachers and students,” said Mike Chadsey, director of public relations with the Ohio Oil & Gas Association said. Chadsey, who is also a member of the Summit County Education Service Center. Chadsey said the goal was demonstrating the application of science, technology, engineering and math fields.

“Industry experts from all across the county from all different aspects of the industry had a hand in making sure when these were designed, they would be … engaging.”

Chadsey said the cost per visit to a school is about $2,000, which he hoped would be provided by donors.

St. Clairsville fifth grade science teacher Kim Evick observed the middle school pupils that afternoon and said she found the program effective in adhering to state standards.

“There was a lot of reading involved. They had to use text evidence. There was math calculations they needed to do, and there was also science concepts that were reinforced by interacting with the different activities,” she said, pointing out one interactive activity that called for students to manipulate a cylinder filled with sand and gravel to demonstrate sedimentation. “There are several units encourage engineering and the engineering process of designing. … This is definitely geared toward getting the students to think about their future.”

“It lets students experience what’s really going on in our area with oil and gas,” Ed Mowrer, Energy Institute Manager at the college, said. “It takes away the mystery of what’s going on. …It takes a very technical process and simplifies it so that a fifth grader can understand it. … You’re trying to get the concept across.”

“The hope is by having fun, educational units like this, we can really get the students actively engaged in their own education. When you see the hands-on learning taking place, it’s exciting,” George Stark, director of external affairs with Cabot Oil & Gas, one of the sponsors, said. “That’s why a company like Cabot Oil & Gas took the time to invest in these units.”

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